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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 7642

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (18:50): I will speak on the first group of amendments, numbered (1) to (11), moved by the shadow minister. On the funding proposal it is worth making a few points. The term 'nascent' referring to the industry was used by the opposition in the committee. We were aware, however, that the implications of that in terms of capacity also have to be considered. Pending NBN Co.'s rollout of fibre, Telstra will provide interim services in smaller new develop­ments. This reflects the fact that it will simply not be viable to connect fibre in all new developments in the absence of a fibre network to connect to.

NBN Co. has been created to roll out a national network methodically and effic­iently. Piecemeal provision in small, scat­tered developments will be more expensive. Under the scheme proposed by the opposition, there is a real risk that we will be left with a sea of costly networks that deliver variable, potentially substandard outcomes. In the long term this would be a significant cost to NBN Co. to integrate.

I also want to refer to these amendments and the issue of the minister's power to specify conditions, because the issue has been misrepresented in the debate. The government has repeatedly said its preference is for industry to come up with appropriate codes and standards. The minister's powers are a fallback mechanism where these industry codes and standards do not yet exist. It is really not clear what the proposed amendments would add. The amendments say the minister can specify technical standards. That was already the case. The amendments also raise the question of what the opposition means by technical standards. Does it actually include an industry developed code made under part 6 of the Telecommunications Act, which is what industry wants? There is a risk that the reference may be interpreted as a reference to standards under part 21 of the Telecommunications Act. This would be an inappropriate reference given the scope of that part. Yet again the opposition fails to understand how the provisions in the bill work. Any instrument that the minister were to make would be interim, it would be subject to public consultation and, import­antly, it would be subject to disallowance. There is an accountability mechanism to the parliament built into this legislation, which is why the government will not be supporting these amendments.