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Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Page: 6095

Mr SIDEBOTTOM (2:35 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation. Minister, how will the development of the National Broadband Network, commencing as it is in my electorate of Braddon, enable the government to improve the delivery of government services?

Mr Fletcher interjecting

Mr TANNER (Minister for Finance and Deregulation) —Ah, the member for Bradfield!

The SPEAKER —The minister will ignore the interjections.

Mr TANNER —He used to have such a good view on these issues until he got into the Liberal Party. I thank the member for Braddon for his question. The development of the National Broadband Network is going to open up enormous opportunities for improvements in the delivery of government services to Australians, and not just direct government services but also services that are largely financed by government, such as health and education services, and a range of other areas where governments are very directly involved. The National Broadband Network is going to open up great opportunity for innovation, for the development of better ways of doing things, for improving the quality of services and for diminishing the costs of government service delivery.

Neither the government nor anybody else is in a position to be prescriptive and to project precisely what these improvements will be because, inevitably, what is going to occur is a range of innovation, of product development, of new applications, of experimentation which will drive an evolutionary change throughout government service delivery and also throughout the private sector in this country.

I just want to refer to a few specific examples to illustrate the possibilities that the broadband network is going to open up. First, in education, by breaking down geographic barriers we will be able to have a situation where people in classrooms or tutorials will be able to interact with others on the other side of the country or on the other side of the world and with specialists in particular areas who will no longer only be accessible if they happen to be in the same city or the same town as that class or tutorial, which will inevitably involve an expansion of capability for education.

Second, in health, an example which is already being trialled now is people who are genuinely ill remaining in their homes, not in hospital, and being monitored on a round-the-clock basis by machines that can determine their heart rate, their blood pressure—

Mr Tuckey —You can do that now.

Mr TANNER —It may be occurring now, but it is not happening in many parts of Australia. The key thing about a ubiquitous broadband network is that it enables an expansion of those capabilities. What is already being trialled also contains the capability for videoconferencing between doctor and patient, which means that people will be able to stay out of hospital, have lower costs, be closer to family and stay in their own homes as a matter of course. Yes, it is being trialled now, but this does not happen as a matter of course.

Third, there are a range of smart grid technologies that will enable a more efficient use of the electricity grid in all parts of Australia by being able to monitor continuous flows of data—where there are disruptions and where there are problems—to enable a more efficient use of electricity transmission. Finally, there will be a range of opportunities in the area of traditional government service delivery—for example, the capacity to videoconference link with people who have specialities in particular areas of service delivery that are not located in every town and every suburb because by definition they are specialists that only deal with a relatively small number of problems.

I do stress that no-one can predict precisely how all of these things will unfold, but the government is already committed to developing a greater use of technology to improve the delivery of government services—for example, making the site a single portal for access of citizens to government services across the board with a universal password accessible to all.

Mr Laming —It is another revolution!

Mr Hockey —How long has that been going on?

Mr TANNER —The Luddites in the Liberal Party mock all of these developments because they are still blocking the National Broadband Network. They are still there after the entirety of the telecommunications sector from Telstra down are now in partnership with the government to develop world-leading, universal, ultra-high-speed broadband for the improvement of the quality of life, the improvement of productivity and the improvement of government services in Australia. The last remaining obstacle to pushing Australia’s productivity and government service delivery into the 21st century is the Luddite opposition. It is about time you woke up to yourselves, got out of the way and helped progress Australia into the 21st century.