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Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Page: 8130


Senator STOKER (Queensland) (14:58): My question is to the Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator Fifield. How is the Liberal National government's rollout of the National Broadband Network helping Australian small businesses?

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister for Communications and the Arts) (14:58): Thank you, Senator Stoker. I have some good news for colleagues, Mr President. Research by AlphaBeta Advisors—which, for the benefit of colleagues, is an analytics firm headed up by Andrew Charlton, former chief economic adviser to former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd—reveals that business growth in NBN-connected regions has accelerated at more than twice the annual pace of the national average and five times the pace of regions without the NBN.

Mr President, as you would be aware, the government has prioritised the NBN rollout to the most underserved areas in the country. The NBN effect in these regional and remote locations is having a significant impact. In regions connected to the NBN the annual growth in people working primarily from home increased by four per cent in 2017 versus 1.8 per cent in non-NBN connected areas. In the 2017 financial year the NBN was estimated to have generated $1.2 billion in additional GDP nationally, including $450 million in regional Australia. Once the rollout is complete, it is estimated that the network will deliver an additional $10.4 billion in GDP per year nationally, including $5.3 billion a year in regional areas. Importantly, thanks to the actions of this government, the majority of Australians are having a good experience when it comes to the NBN and the speed of their connections. In March the ACCC's Rod Sims said that speed delivery was 'better than expected' and that this goes:

… against the current wisdom that the majority of consumers and businesses are having issues with NBN speeds.

The authoritative industry publication CommsDay reported that, if the NBN customer base were a country, it would be ranked top 10 in the world for speed.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Stoker, a supplementary question.

Senator STOKER (Queensland) (15:00): What did recent research show in relation to female entrepreneurs?

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister for Communications and the Arts) (15:00): NBN's boost to female entrepreneurship is one of the most interesting revelations of the AlphaBeta research. It found that more women are choosing to become their own bosses in NBN connected regions, creating their own businesses at twice the rate of men in the same communities and at a pace far higher than regions without NBN. The annual growth rate of self-employed women in NBN connected areas is 2.3 per cent versus 0.1 per cent in non-NBN connected areas. By 2021 NBN is expected to drive an additional up to 52,000 self-employed women. Let me indicate again: this is research undertaken by the firm AlphaBeta, headed by economist Andrew Charlton, who has a work history as an economic adviser to former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Stoker, a final supplementary question.

Senator STOKER (Queensland) (15:01): Minister, are there any threats to businesses that are set to benefit from the government's rollout of the NBN?

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister for Communications and the Arts) (15:02): There were and there are. The good news is that to date we have been able to circumvent the threat posed by those opposite by pursuing a different path to the one that they had embarked upon when they were in office. Had we continued on the path chosen by those opposite, there would be people waiting until 2025 for the NBN. Through the approach that we've followed, the NBN will be completed a good six to eight years sooner than would otherwise have been the case. Something which should be a self-evident point is that businesses that don't have the NBN can't have the benefit of the NBN. Under this government, business is getting the benefit of the NBN much sooner than would otherwise have been the case. This is good news for Australian businesses, and objective, independent, authoritative research proves that to be the case.

Senator Cormann: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.