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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 7645

Mr NEVILLE (HinklerThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (19:03): I would like to support the opposition's case in this and echo what the shadow minister has said. We are not out here to destroy the government's bill. All we are asking to do is make it more efficient. What we are proposing is not inconsistent with what the minister himself proposed as recently as 9 December last year. This is not a century away; this is bit over six months ago. The minister said that these forms of competition would exist, but clearly they will not.

Let us look at a scenario. The last speaker said we are not talking about the consumer. I am talking very much about the consumer, the person who buys a block of a land and builds a house and wants the services connected. Some councils will not allow that process to take place until all the services are connected, and we now require them to have the communications component of that installed. So we come to a situation where we have the water, gas, sewerage and everything else connected and we could have the developer put in the pits and pipes, but if NBN Co. and its designated subcontractor have not at that stage installed the fibre where do we go from there? Yes, it might be free, but how long do we wait for it? In the circumstance that NBN Co. or its designated subcontractor, Fujitsu, got well behind with this, you would get a bottleneck effect where states all over Australia could be waiting for months on end trying to reach some form of conclusion.

In contrast to this, there are at least seven companies to consider, and these are not Johnny-come-latelys. These people have been in the communications market for the last 10 years or more providing identical services with fibre and other forms of broadband. They have been involved in the installation of pay TV and CCTV. They have provided a whole range of connections to all sorts of businesses and private premises. On their own admission, they go past 400,000 premises and they have another 350,000 under contract. These are people with the capacity to do it. And far from doing anything to damage the government's bill, it would not only keep those people in employment but speed up the efficiency with which the high-speed fibre can be rolled out. I repeat: what do you do if you reach a situation where you have all the other services in and you have your pits and pipes in but the NBN Co. is so far behind that it cannot provide the fibre connection? The only thing the developer can do in that instance is go to one of these companies and pay full tote odds with no hope of any sort of a refund.

In the amendment, we propose that a single market mechanism presided over by the minister would come into play whereby the connection of the fibre would be paid for by NBN Co. If that were going on all over Australia over a period of time, what you would find is that there would be a brake on NBN Co. and its subcontractors for any excesses. If, from time to time, it was demonstrated by these seven operators—and others no doubt who would come into the field—that they can do the job as effectively and more cheaply, there would be downward pressure on costs not only for the developer but for NBN Co. and ultimately for the government and, still further down the line, for the taxpayer. What could possibly be wrong with that? I really ask the government to have another look at this. As the shadow minister said, we are not trying to impose some sort of philosophical mantra on you; we are just saying to look at a practical solution that might have these states wired up earlier rather than later.