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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11745

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (18:47): Tonight I wish to take the opportunity to talk about broadband connectivity within Cowan and Friday's win for Cowan. Over the next three years 97 per cent of Cowan is going to be covered by the NBN. That amounts to 64,000 premises. I want to talk about the entire electorate, there is no doubt about it, but there is a particular win in this. For the last couple of years, I have been engaging with the now Prime Minister and former Minister for Communications, his staff, nbn co and Telstra as well about the needs of the Cowan electorate. I have made speeches in this parliament, I have had those meetings and I have written letters, all talking about the intricacies of the problems that exist within Cowan. Tonight I wish to go into those matters in some detail.

In particular, Friday represented an advance of a six-month build on three suburbs in need in Cowan: Landsdale, Madeley and Darch. It had been slated under the 18-month rollout announcement that it would be more like quarter 4 of 2016 that Landsdale, Madeley and Darch would have the NBN commence building in those areas. So it is good to have a win.

I would also like to contrast how, in three years time, by the end of 2018, 64,000 premises will be linked up to the NBN—again, 97 per cent of the electorate of Cowan—with how, when we came to office, there were just 51,000 premises across the whole country that had been connected to the NBN. Indeed, two per cent of the premises in Australia were connected at the time of the election, at a cost of $6.5 billion—representing $3.25 billion just for one per cent of this country. How expensive is that? When we came to power, the workforce in WA were not up to the task. They have had to be retrained. I believe that something like three premises in Western Australia were connected at the time of the election.

So it was a win on Friday. I am glad that those meetings that I had with the now Prime Minister and the representations that I have made over the last couple of years have been effective and that we have had that win in Cowan. That is certainly good news. Unfortunately, the delay—with six years of the Labor Party talking about the NBN, a very slow roll-out throughout the entire rest of the county, the inadequate workforce that was not up to the task in Western Australia, as well as someone's plan to start the NBN in WA in Applecross—has made it very difficult for electorates like Cowan and for the northern suburbs. I do not know whose great plan it was that Applecross was just the right place to start, ignoring the needs of the northern suburbs, but things are back on track now. I am very pleased about the three-year plan, which will see 97 per cent of Cowan covered.

The trouble is that Telstra have been a major problem in the last 10 years. For so long they have been saying: 'We can't do any major rebuilds of exchanges. We can't do any great work there because, if the NBN comes along, it will be redundant work.' Telstra, unfortunately, have been hiding behind the eventual announcements of the NBN build to not do a whole lot. Where there have been upgrades to exchanges, they have been inadequate on many occasions. I will go through and talk about some of the issues regarding ADSL1, ADSL2 port availability, but I would like to start with a particularly problematic suburb with regard to internet connectivity, and that is Greenwood. I do not need to tell residents of the Greenwood suburb that, if you are talking about north of Blackall Drive, there are absolute problems. The problems are copper wire as well as distance from the exchange and also pair gains where, for approximately every second house, you just cannot get a connection.

I have been contacted by a lot of people all through that district on the north side of Blackall Drive where it goes in between Hepburn Avenue and Blackall Drive. In Tupelo Court, Bouvardia and a range of other streets along there—whether it is Terry or Anne-Marie—people have told me that they have these problems, and they have had these problems for a long time. People have talked about this for a long time. What is really required now is for Telstra to look at suburbs like Greenwood and say, 'Here are all these who people crying out for an adequate service and who are prepared to pay a fair amount for that adequate service.' For some reason, Telstra has been hiding behind this NBN roll-out and has not addressed those needs. It is very disappointing for me, but those people in those parts of Greenwood are despairing. Of course, it is not just Greenwood, although in Greenwood it has been a long-term problem for the people in the section that I talk about—adjacent to Hepburn Avenue, Blackall Drive and some other places in the north of Greenwood.

That is not the only place. There is no doubt about it. In Landsdale recently I was talking to Lauren. Lauren told me that Telstra had come around to connect up her internet, and they said, 'Oh, yeah, there are ports available'. But, because her reasonably new house—only three years old—was on a pair gain arrangement, they said, 'No, we can't do that anymore'. Telstra says, 'We're going to connect you up with a land line'. She did not want a land line; she wanted an internet connection. 'We'll connect you up with a land line and we'll charge you for that. Even though we aren't actually doing a service, we’ll charge you for that.' Now they are trying to take action against her, because she does not want to pay for a service that she did not want. She wants to pay for a service she can actually use, like the internet. But that is not available. It is a tragic situation; no doubt about it.

I would like to thank my local state members for their great advocacy in this matter: Andrea Mitchell, MLA for Kingsley is certainly acutely aware of those problems I mentioned in Greenwood; and Paul Miles, the member for Wanneroo. We have talked on many occasions about the problems in Tapping. Up in Tapping There are no ports of any type available—not ADSL1, not ADSL2—there is nothing happening in those areas. There is no upgrade that is going to meet those demands. Again, it is a terrible situation for people in Tapping.

Telstra know that there is that opportunity where people are prepared to pay. The tragic part is also that there are some people out there that look at what is going on, and Telstra say to them: 'We can provide you a wifi service for $175 a month. But there's no ports available.' And the allegation has been made: is this really about some sort of price gauging, where Telstra does not want to spend the big dollars to upgrade the exchange but instead they will take $175 a month for a very expensive wifi service? There is a lot of concern in these sorts of areas. And I have heard it said.

Of course, we are not just talking about those sorts of scenarios. There are many suburbs, like Pearsall, and Hocking to a degree as well, where there is the distance from the exchange, the copper wire—and pair gain scenarios in the more recent developments. And there are older suburbs, like Greenwood. A lot of people just cannot get a service of any kind. And someone like Telstra is just talking about the expensive wifi option. So these are the problems that certainly affect Cowan. There are many problems across all sorts of areas—Marangaroo, Warwick, Girrawheen, Malaga and even Ballajura, which unfortunately I do not have time to go into right now.

I am certainly glad that we have had this win on the NBN, but Telstra need to get their act together and provide the infrastructure that people are demanding. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Dr Southcott ): There being no further grievances, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Federation Chamber adjourned 1 8 : 58