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Monday, 18 June 2018
Page: 3052


Senator COLBECK (Tasmania) (14:15): My question is to the Minister for Communications, Senator Fifield.

Senator Wong: Why do you want to privatise the ABC?

Senator Ian Macdonald: Why did you lie about Medicare?

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator Ian Macdonald: Pull her into order.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong—

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator Ian Macdonald: This is not about you, Penny—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong and Senator Macdonald, can I please hear Senator Colbeck's question, with some semblance of order, given it is only Monday. Senator Colbeck.

Senator COLBECK: The rollout of the Turnbull government's NBN multitechnology mix is making significant progress across the country. Can the minister upgrade the Senate on the rollout's progress in Tasmania?

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaMinister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:16): I thank Senator Colbeck for his question. It is an undeniable fact that the government's multitechnology mix is making significant progress across the country. With nearly four million connections, we're providing Australians, including students, farmers and small business operators, with the tools they need to engage in the digital economy. We're doing this sooner and more affordably than our predecessors ever could have achieved it. I'm very pleased to advise colleagues in the Senate that the rollout of the NBN in Tasmania is virtually complete. The NBN in Tasmania has now passed 99 per cent of premises. Over 170,000 Tasmanian homes and premises now have an active service, which is a far cry from the barely 7,000 connections achieved under the former government.

Providing access to fast and affordable internet is a key priority for this government and we have pursued it with vigour. The NBN is now available throughout the major cities of Hobart and Launceston. Across the north-west the hubs of Devonport, Burnie and Ulverstone have seen strong take-up. Thanks to the coalition government, 94 per cent of homes and businesses in the electorate of Braddon, for instance, can now order an NBN service. Compare this to the effort from our predecessors, where the lead contractor downed tools in Tasmania in 2013 and just seven per cent of premises across all of the communities in Braddon were able to get the NBN. The story today is very, very different.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Colbeck, a supplementary question.

Senator COLBECK (Tasmania) (14:18): Considering the progress the government has made in rolling out the NBN sooner and more affordably, via the multitechnology mix, can the minister outline to the Senate how the government's NBN is boosting the economy and supporting job creation?

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaMinister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:18): It's because of the multitechnology mix that Australia is in the grip of a nationwide digital transformation. Earlier this month I released phase 2 of the Connecting Australia research report, which was conducted by data analytics and economics firm AlphaBeta. By the by, the individual who did the work is Dr Andrew Charlton, who I think is known to those opposite as a former economics adviser to Mr Rudd. The findings of the research report confirm that the government's NBN is opening the door to new business opportunities in regions connected to the NBN. The report reveals that access to the NBN is expected to contribute to the creation of up to 80,000 new businesses by 2021. The combined impact of growth in new businesses and jobs is predicted to boost the national economy by up to $10 billion, once the rollout is complete. This is good news.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Colbeck, a final supplementary question.

Senator COLBECK (Tasmania) (14:19): Can the minister update the Senate on the progress of the coalition's election commitment to help fund a Technology Choice upgrade to fixed-line and fixed-wireless services across the main communities of Tasmania's west coast?

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaMinister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:19): The government's $18.5 million election commitment to fund the Technology Choice upgrade to Tasmania's west coast is on track for delivery later this year. This is a signature achievement of Mr Brett Whiteley. Construction of the fixed-line broadband NBN has commenced in Queenstown, Rosebery and Zeehan and the fixed-wireless service for Strahan is set to be switched on in the middle of this year. Exchange upgrades have been completed, and residents throughout the west coast communities can see workers on the ground building nodes and laying fibre. A portion of the existing fibre link provided by the state government is being integrated into NBN's network to allow these communities to have access to fast broadband for the very first time. In total, NBN expects that nearly 3,000 premises will be ready for service before the end of the year, commencing with the fixed-wireless switch-on in Strahan. This milestone will complete the rollout for the electorate of Braddon, and we'll be able to officially declare Tasmania as Australia's first fully connected state. (Time expired)