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Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Page: 6097

Mr GIBBONS (2:45 PM) —I have a question for the Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy. Minister, what will be a benefit of the National Broadband Network for Australia’s 2.4 billion small businesses and are there any obstacles to delivering high-speed broadband to those businesses?

Dr EMERSON (Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy, Minister Assisting the Finance Minister on Deregulation and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs) —I thank my friend the member for Bendigo for his question and for his interest in the 10,140 small businesses in his electorate. He represents a regional area and nowhere are the benefits of the National Broadband Network for small business so clearly evident than in regional Australia. In regional Australia the National Broadband Network offers small business teleconferencing facilities, even the capacity in a place like Bendigo and surrounding areas to telecommute so that people do not have to go into the city every day but can use these high-speed broadband facilities, which are around 50 times faster than facilities available today. It is very easy to envisage a future for small businesses operating from their own regional centres but then saving the expense and time of travelling all around Australia to meet clients. Initially they may meet face-to-face but perhaps they will follow up with good quality teleconferencing facilities. They may also improve their web based presence—another great advantage of the National Broadband Network—where small businesses are able to present the best possible face to customers and clients.

At present, although 96 per cent of small businesses around Australia have an email address; only 57 per cent have a web presence. In the tourism industry, it would be great to have that interactive web based presence so that people can have a look at the facilities on offer in Bendigo without visiting—they can even do that from overseas. There are so many wonderful opportunities. That is what we believe on this side of the parliament. So much do we believe it that the minister for tourism and I have combined, with the support of the Prime Minister, for a small business online program to get more small businesses into the 21st century through a web based presence and interactive services.

I am asked: are there any obstacles? Yes, there are. I have to advise the House that the coalition, if it were to win government, would shut down the National Broadband Network. Can you imagine any vandalistic behaviour higher than shutting down the National Broadband Network as the government seeks to move us and small businesses from the copper age of the 20th century into a fibre future for the 21st century?

The shadow minister for communications had an observation to make about this. I was involved in a debate on television with him and I was arguing for the benefits of the National Broadband Network. He said: ‘That would be good but we all have wants. I’d like a 53 Corvette.’ I can present to the shadow communications minister a stunning little 53 Corvette, a lovely little number. Doesn’t it say everything? We are talking about the 21st century and the shadow minister for communications says, ‘I want to go back to 1953.’ This guy would make John Howard behind the white picket fence look like a progressive. He wants to go back to 1953. I had a look at some of the features of the 53 Corvette. If you go to the top of the line for a 53 Corvette, do you know what you can get? An AM radio! And if you want to pay a fair bit more, you can get door handles that open the door from the inside rather than from the outside! He was not even born in 1950, but I have had a bit of a look around because he is a friend of mine and he is interested in a 53 Corvette. I can offer him a 53 Corvette for the princely sum of $199,500. He would have to go to Tennessee to get it and would be fresh out of the National Corvette Museum, just like the coalition is fresh out of the museum of the 20th century, while this government moves into the fibre age of the 21st century.