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Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Page: 4149


Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (15:32): When Senator Martin was mayor of Devonport, he described Mr Turnbull's fibre-to-the-node network as like 'driving a Mercedes-Benz to the node and jumping on a penny-farthing'. I don't agree with Senator Martin on quite a lot of things, but I have to say that he was spot-on when it came to his description of the Turnbull government's copper based network. I see Senator Cormann over there, smiling, because he knows that Senator Martin and I don't agree on most things. But, on this issue, I can say that I think he was spot-on! I'm always happy to acknowledge when I think that other people are correct.

One of a number of reasons why I don't agree with Senator Martin is that the Turnbull government's copper based network is a network that is substantially realised on last century's technology. It's a network which has cost $4 billion more to build than Labor's and has reduced NBN Co revenue by $500 million a year. It's a network on which more than 40 per cent of customers have experienced disconnections, dropouts and other performance issues, and it's a network with which more than 40 per cent of businesses surveyed are dissatisfied—40 per cent of businesses surveyed are dissatisfied! It's a network which leaves Australia's average broadband speeds behind those of places such as Estonia, Bulgaria and Kenya. It's a network which The University of Melbourne technology expert Mr Rob Tucker says will be obsolete by the time it's built. Yet this government has no plans to upgrade its second-rate network for at least the next 22 years. That's 22 years during which other countries will leave Australia's digital competitiveness for dead. By rolling out this second-rate network, those opposite have sabotaged Australia's economy simply to make a political point.

Voters in the electorate of Braddon have been told by the Minister for Communications that the second-rate broadband brought to the north-west coast of Tasmania was the 'signature achievement' of the Liberal candidate for Braddon, Brett Whiteley—the one who lost his seat at the previous election and who has previously lost a state seat as well; so not once did he lose a seat but twice. Let me tell you: you can keep telling people that, because the people of Braddon realise that it's a dilapidated broadband network that's subject to slow speeds, faults and dropouts. Just ask the people on the west coast. Do you think they feel grateful for that? I'm pretty sure they don't. If this was Brett Whiteley's signature achievement, then the rest of his achievements as the member for Braddon were very, very ordinary.

The government couldn't even ensure that Mr Whiteley's promise was delivered on time. They promised that the fibre-to-the-network rollout to Tasmania's west coast would be completed at the end of the year, and yet the rollout will be just starting by the end of this year. I'm sure it's pretty clear to the west coast residents who are in the seat of Braddon, which Mr Whiteley's running for, that his so-called 'signature achievement' didn't happen because of anything he pushed for. It happened because Mr Whiteley and his Liberal government were dragged kicking and screaming to deliver a fixed-line connection. It was a backflip of absolutely epic proportions, and was brought on by Labor's announcement of a fibre-to-the-premises rollout for the west coast.

The people of Braddon know that Labor's Justine Keay is the only candidate who will truly stand up for their needs, who will give the workers in Braddon earning less than $125,000 a year a bigger, better and fairer tax cut, and who will look after the people of Braddon no matter what the area, whether it's the NBN, health or education. No matter what the area, Justine Keay will work for the people of Braddon, as she has been doing previously. It's no accident that Mr Whiteley, as one of the 'three amigos', lost his seat last time around. It's because he didn't respect the people of Braddon. He didn't care about the people of Braddon. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.