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Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Page: 4146


Senator FAWCETT (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (15:16): I too rise to take note of the answer to the question by Senator Urquhart. Her contribution just then highlights the fact that the question was not so much about broadband; it was about the fact that the ALP is clearly concerned about the campaign being run by Mr Brett Whiteley in Tasmania. He was an effective member before and he will be an effective member into the future, and, more importantly, he will be an effective member of a government which is transforming Australia's economy such that people who wish to have effective communications can afford to actually purchase the services to have effective communications, as well as all the other services that Australians expect governments of various levels to provide, whether that be for health or education, social security or, importantly, the defence of the nation. Brett Whiteley will be part of a team that allows the growth in our economy to afford those services.

Let's come to the issue of the NBN. What we saw with the NBN that was promised by those opposite, which they so vigorously seek to defend in this place, was an on-the-back-of-an-envelope type plan of something that locks in a particular technology. As we look around the world, countries like the US, the UK, Germany, France and others roll out a technology mix. NBN multitechnology includes fibre to the node, some 40 per cent; fibre to the curb, some eight per cent; fibre to the premises, 17 per cent; HFC, 27 per cent; fixed wireless, five per cent; and satellite, three per cent. Why is that important? It's important because Australia is a wide and varied place with different communities. South Australia is a great example where we have many small communities with large distances to travel and small populations. To try to apply a one-size-fits-all would not be necessarily affordable nor effective. Even the opposition, when they were rolling out their plan, realised that you needed a technology mix, which is why they included things like satellite in the plan that they brought forward.

As we look forward, what we see with technologies such as 5G on the horizon is a continual march of new technology which will revolutionise the concept of the Internet of Things, which means that demand for the internet, for broadband, is not going to be all based around somebody's home or business. The advent of small satellites providing constellations that give broad coverage is the basis of the investment we see from so many firms into the space sector. One of the reasons the government is creating a space agency in Australia to link in with the growing opportunities around the world is to provide an industry base for the kind of venture capital we see already coming to Australia—$5 million, including to one South Australian company that is looking to launch fleets of nanosats as part of this internet of things.

Those rapid developments in the technology that is responding to consumer demand is why fixed—to the home, to the business—is not the only solution. It's not the solution that the Australian consumer is demanding. The vast majority of people access the internet, access broadband, access data, through their mobile phone, through their iPad, through a range of devices that are mobile. The whole essence of much of our economy and technology now is mobile. People want that in order to actually have the information where they need it in their business place. Now, some people choose to have fibre to the home or fibre to the business, but many people are choosing to move away from the fixed landline concept because they want mobile, because it works for their business.

So the government, unlike those opposite, is putting in place a system whereby people can get access to the bandwidth that they need at a price they can afford that also uses a technology mix that meets the needs of individual consumers and the vast demographic differences around Australia—our geography and our distances. Their plan would have cost some $30-billion-odd more. This government is putting a system in place more quickly, with more flexibility and more options for growth into the future, which doesn't just stick to an ideological plan on the back of an envelope but actually meets the needs of Australia's consumers and businesses who want to keep growing our economy. (Time expired)