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Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Page: 12036

Mr HOGAN (Page) (15:50): The NBN has had a colourful history. We all know that. One colour that comes to mind is red. I say that because we know Stephen Conroy—a former minister, in the former Labor government, who had responsibility for the NBN, at one stage—said all television executives would wear red underpants on their heads if he told them to. I do not know what a psychoanalyst, like Sigmoid Freud, would have said about that. I do not know what underpants on heads means, if you want to use that as an analogy. I do not know what the colour red means either. But it certainly explains some thinking on the way he planned to design the NBN. It caused this government some headaches when the now Prime Minister took over the department.

Everyone in this country wants NBN. Everyone in this country wants fast broadband. It is important for our technological advancement, for our advancement as a commercial nation. Everyone is in agreement with that. We remember, at the very start—God help us—Kevin Rudd and Stephen Conroy sitting on a plane with a beer coaster defining and designing the program. That was the problem. The problem at the start was: who should deliver this? If you could go back to scratch—and the now Prime Minister has said this—you would tender this to private enterprise. You would tender this to telecommunications companies—to companies that look at this and do this, and that would do it in a cost-efficient way.

Then what would happen is that the government—as we should—would step in and cover areas and regions that were not commercially viable. It should have been done like that, as it is in most countries around the world—most countries around the world do it in exactly that way. But, no: the man who said that television executives should put red underpants on their heads had another thought process. He thought that the whole government should run and design the whole thing.

When the now Prime Minister took it over as the minister, he said that it was complete chaos. Obviously, he has cleaned up the whole department and got nbn running on the best commercial footing that he could. What does that mean? That means that just last Friday we saw the results of that coming to fruition. Residents in my region in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales are very excited because this program is running out into 2020, and already around 10,000 premises in my region have access or can have access to it via the wireless system. Many of them have already connected, which they are very excited about. Also, in around 2017 all my major regional centres will have fibre to the node connected.

Obviously, if you had fibre to the premises you would get faster speeds. No-one denies that. But, again, as a coalition government that always looks at taxpayer money and wants to be as prudent as we can, we are basically going to give a system that is going to run at about 80 to 85 per cent of the speed for about 40 per cent of the cost. That is a good deal. And the vast majority, if not all, of businesses, retail and households are going to be happy with those speeds. But, as we know, money is never a problem for the drunken sailors over there. They just spend it, because it is not theirs. They do not take into account that commercial or financial reality.

Just back to my community: I have been speaking to people this week from locations such as Alstonville and Wollongbar, which are going to be connected in early 2017 with fibre to the node. Evans Head and Coraki are also very excited. I was down there last weekend and they are very happy. Lismore, Ballina and Grafton are all being connected around the 2017 mark. And what is very exciting for us is that fibre to the node works. It works for them. The cost is cheaper already for some major businesses and local council operatives, and for some of my state government colleagues.

We also have the Pacific Highway going through—another major piece of infrastructure—and already we are looking to attract businesses to live and work in our region once this is connected. We will go far and wide around the country to do that. We can now plan this because people now know when this is going to be connected. As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker Vasta—you are just up the road—the Northern Rivers is the most delightful place to live and work in the country. So we are going to attract more businesses to our region because of this. Thank you.