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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 7650


Ms ROWLAND (Greenway) (19:25): I do not have any animosity towards industry. I do not have any animosity towards any particular fibre providers. What I do have animosity towards is the delay that is being caused to my constituents getting the NBN. Riverstone, as the site of the first Sydney metro rollout, should be getting the NBN on time—and it would if we were to enable this legislation to go through. I understand that the member for Wentworth probably does not have a lot of greenfields developments in his area—I am sure he is the first to admit that—but I do. North-west Sydney, the fastest growing corridor in Sydney, needs to have certainty that, for all those blocks being opened up around Riverstone, Schofield and Marsden Park, every single new residential dwelling will be fibre-ready when residents move in. That is the certainty they have been waiting for; that is the certainty they need.

I take on board the member for Wentworth's comment that I read his amendments. I apologise for reading his amendments closely. I thought he might actually take that as a compliment. He has asked what the government's solution is to these problems he says he has identified. I will tell you what the solution is. In early 2009, I was advising—and I am on the record—certain telcos on these provisions about mandating fibre in greenfields estates. I was doing that when those provisions were in their first form, when the discussion paper was first put out. At that time, many problems were identified—myriad problems that needed to be sorted out. If you have a local government background, as I do, you will know that that not only requires developers and the fibre providers to be on board but also requires local government to understand what is going on and what their obligations are in the consent process and in the planning and development approvals process.

Since 2009, we have come a very long way. Why is that? Why has there been continual updating of the government's position on fibre in new estates? It is because this government has been consultative with the industry. The improvements that have been made have brought us to a point where we have a bill before us which is ready to proceed, ready to provide the certainty which the industry and consumers are looking for. I recall the member for Wentworth yesterday saying that this amendment would enable the private sector cable companies to be exempted from the cherry picking provisions of this act if the fibre network they sought to build met certain conditions—not owned or operated by NBN Co. or Telstra. He said yesterday that they should be exempt from these cherry picking provisions because of their scale.

We know that some of those opposite have very perverse views when it comes to cherry picking provisions elsewhere in NBN related legislation. When we dealt with the access arrangements measures, I noted at that time that the bill was designed to address certain cherry picking provisions. The anti-cherry-picking provisions meant that anyone building a fibre network had to provide wholesale access, which is again relevant to facilities based competition. There is a very sound reason for doing this and it is something that is relevant only to a ubiquitous fibre broadband network of the nature of the NBN—it is because it can ensure equal pricing. It ensures equal pricing regardless of where you live or work in Australia. I noted at that time that opposition to those provisions would be opposition to the national uniform pricing requirement imposed on NBN Co. The anti-cherry-picking provisions in the telco world are designed to counter inefficient investment.

The NBN creates a national network where all players are created equal, and that extends to equal treatment whether those players are in the city or in the bush. I particularly take on board the comments of my friend the member for Hinkler. I am sure he would want to ensure that his constituents had the most level playing field that could be offered in getting access to high-speed broadband services. There is an impediment to that, which has been proved time and time again—those investors who seek to cherry pick in low-cost areas do so for one reason and one reason only, and that is for profit, regardless of who they are. Under the arrangements in this bill, supported by the access arrangements, investment is only incentivised where it is efficient. This is in contrast to the cherry picker, the person who is not charged with a mandate to serve the national interest, as the NBN is, but is interested only in making a profit. The easiest cherries to pick are the low-cost areas—not the bush, not outer metropolitan Sydney, which I represent. This cannot come soon enough. The only thing I am opposed to is delay.