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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 7644

Ms ROWLAND (Greenway) (18:58): I rise to oppose the amendments before us. This bill would not be improved by the amendments. The notion from those opposite is that if a compliant optical fibre network is installed in such a fibre ready facility NBN Co. will pay for the cost of installation. The intention, they say, is to enable developers whose development project has installed fibre network to have the option to require NBN Co. to purchase that network at a reasonable price and the minister will determine the costs. What this essentially means is that a third party, I suppose a developer, can apply to NBN Co. to be paid an amount of money representing the installation costs for such a network. Then it goes on. The way this is drafted, there are 30-day terms. There does not appear to be any right of NBN Co. refusal and so it becomes a mandatory purchase. Under subsection (5) of the proposed 372CA NBN Co. must make an installation payment for a network within 30 days after receiving the application for payment. There is no commerciality at all in this amendment. Since when has it been commercial to demand payment for what amounts to a compulsory acquisition, surely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars at least for a larger development, and require payment within a calendar month? It is simply absurd. Yesterday, the member for Wentworth described the department's response to his proposal as 'equivocal. It was not really a responsive answer at all.' Actually, I think he just described the moment when someone you are dealing with springs on you an absolutely absurd proposition. I can see right now the DBCDE folks trying to hold their tongues and not say what they really thought about it.

So many questions actually come up when you examine this proposal and how it would work in practice. There is the question of who owns the network, and I doubt it is going to be the developer who actually owns the network. It appears to me that the network operator will continue to own it. You cannot own and operate networks that provide carriage services to the public unless you actually have a carrier licence.

Those opposite have been scathing about the ministerial role in this. But I do point out that there is a residual power for the minister to make codes, as set out under part 6 of the Telecommunications Act, and a complem­entary rule already exists in the event that industry fails to devise one in the given subject area. Again, this potential role of the minister is not novel. It has always been the intention of the minister, and also the regulator, to enable the industry to devise its own standards. So it is quite strange that they are so scathing about the minister's potential role in this. But now they want the minister to determine the market price for a network installation and then publish a scale of rates in the gazette. Their position on this is totally inconsistent when it comes to the minister's role.

This amendment is ill conceived and it is unnecessary. It would deprive the sector, including consumers and developers, of the certainty that the bill in its current form will provide. The change to the fibre-in-greenfields regime under our proposal that we have before the House today is this: competitors will compete to provide fibre installation to NBN Co. rather than to developers. So they still compete, but this time they are competing to provide to NBN Co. rather than to the developers. Instead of developers extracting an economic rent, consumers will not pay for fibre connectivity in and of itself. They will just pay for what they use from a retail service provider providing services under the NBN. It is strange that you will notice in this debate that the member for Wentworth came out here wanting to defend big business. I have heard nothing about consumers in all this and not a great deal at all about consumer certainty. We on this side seek to put consumers first. When we talk about certainty, we talk about certainty for new home buyers so that when they move into their dwelling they know it will already be fibre-ready. It also provides certainty for developers, because they will know their obligations.

Not only is this amendment ill conceived but the dissenting report prepared by the member for Wentworth is fraught with inconsistencies. One of them I would like to point out is that we have just had a debate on whether or not a market is nascent. Well, on page 42 of his dissenting report he says:

… the evidence the inquiry received demonstrates that there is a vigorous private market for the construction of fibre infrastructure in new developments.

Yet on pages 44 and 47 he says it is a nascent market—so, a few pages later, it is a market just coming into existence. For amendments that are purported to have a competition basis, the member for Wentworth cannot even describe the state of competition.