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Thursday, 27 November 2014
Page: 9552


Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:45): My question is to the Assistant Minister for Social Services, Senator Fifield, representing the Minister for Communications. Can the minister update the Senate on the progress of the NBN in my home state of Victoria?

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (14:46): Can I acknowledge Senator McKenzie's absolute ceaselessness in representing the people of Victoria. I can inform the Senate that the coalition is making significant progress in rolling out the NBN in Victoria. As of the federal election, only 35,179 premises in Victoria had been passed by fibre in brownfield areas. When it came to the NBN, Labor clearly neglected Victoria.

We have, Mr President, you will be pleased to know, now passed 83,456 premises with fibre in Victoria. The 83,456 premises now passed with fibre in Victoria is more than a doubling of the reach of the fibre network. We also have 36,987 premises passed with fixed wireless. Last week NBN Co. made roll-out announcements for its fibre-to-the-premises network in additional areas, covering 12,400 premises in Victoria, including Keysborough, Frankston South, Mount Helen and Brookfield. We have also expanded the rollout of the fixed wireless network in areas such as East Gippsland, Mildura, Swan Hill and Shepparton. I am very proud, as a Victorian senator, to report that the coalition is getting on with the job of rolling out the NBN in Victoria. I think all colleagues on this side know that, as communications minister, Senator Conroy was asleep on the job and Senator Conroy very kindly gave us a demonstration of that earlier today.

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:48): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister also update the Senate on what the government is doing to improve mobile phone coverage across Victoria?

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (14:48): One of the most consistent complaints from people in rural Victoria is that their mobile coverage, their mobile reception is poor to non-existent. I am very pleased to let you know that the coalition has made a $100 million commitment to remediating black spots. We do recognise, however, that Australia is a vast continent and this money will not fix every black spot. Labor were consistent when it came to funding for mobile black spots. They consistently spent nothing—not a single dollar in six years of government! Senator Conroy saw the future and it was fixed line. There was just one problem. Those pesky business operators and farmers in rural and regional areas would not stop using mobile devices. We expect to leverage an additional $100 million from the private sector, which we expect will result in 250— (Time expired)

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:49): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Will the minister advise the Senate how the government is working cooperatively with other levels of government in Victoria to deliver real telecommunication outcomes for Victoria, particularly in regional areas?

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (14:49): As I was saying, we expect to leverage an additional $100 million from the private sector and to see 250 to 300 new towers being built. But, as responsible economic managers, we are doing everything we can to leverage every dollar investment from other governments, as well as from the private sector, with our funding. It is a great measure of the success of the program and the vision of Premier Napthine. He has committed an additional $40 million to ensure that we are able to extend mobile coverage in Victoria even further.

I remind the Senate again that, in six years of federal Labor, not a dollar was spent to deliver services to areas of Victoria that do not have adequate access to mobile services. It takes a coalition government in Canberra and a coalition government in Spring Street to see that rural and regional Victoria get the deal they deserve.