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Monday, 15 November 2010
Page: 2168

Ms BIRD (11:31 AM) —I do not support the National Broadband Network Financial Transparency Bill 2010. I notice my colleague the member for Gilmore says that something factual and logical in this debate would progress the issue. I welcome that from the other side for once. The argument in this bill is all about a cost-benefit analysis. We know full well the context in which this legislation is being put forward: that the member for Wentworth’s riding instructions on taking on his shadow portfolio were ‘go out and destroy the NBN’. That is the context within which this bill sits.

The reality is that in some seats, as my colleague indicated before, we are constantly contacted by people frustrated and annoyed because they cannot get access to broadband. The fact is that those opposite when in government had 18 attempts to get this right and they failed. I profoundly believe that the ubiquitous rollout of fibre across the nation is the most effective way to go and competition between service providers to provide access to that is the most effective way to go. One of the reasons I believe this is due to the fact that I had a trip to Silicon Valley with a parliamentary committee last year and we met with people at Cisco and Google, and the message we got at that time was that this was definitely the way to go. Why? Because the experience in America with competition on the infrastructure side of the rollout of broadband was that it became a dog’s breakfast. Companies would provide infrastructure in particular areas and it would not be compatible with infrastructure in other areas. What was supposed to be competition on the retail side to provide services was being limited because whoever put in your infrastructure had designed it in such a way that you had to use their retail services.

In time, people will look back at this debate—and I think people like the member for Wentworth know this—and say: ‘What on earth were they thinking? How short-sighted were they being?’ My colleague the member for Greenway outlined the rollout of telegraphic services and telephony services in this country as an example. We would never have seen that happen if the sorts of arguments being put forward now by those opposite had been made at the time. We would all be sitting here without a telephone, without the capacity to telegraph each other, if the short-sighted views on the rollout of transformative infrastructure of those opposite had been in place at that point in time. Sometimes we have to look to the future in a significant way and we have to do it in a way that allows a role for government in laying down the foundations for transformative infrastructure. That is what the National Broadband Network is about.

Only a couple of weeks ago I spoke in this parliament about a local company in my area—an international stock exchange company that operates from a home based business with offices in both North America and Europe. The gentleman who runs the company had spoken to the local paper about his frustration with existing broadband services. He provided a simple example—a telephone hook-up for all his offices around the world. He had all the offices lined up, everybody was in place for the hook-up—you can imagine the challenge with the different time zones—and he had to upload a document for them all to work off. The line kept cutting out and shutting down, and in the end they abandoned the attempt to have a telephone hook-up. Businesses in Australia that want to connect to world trade know that the rollout of a fibre network is critically important. It has the capacity to transform our economies, and no more so than in the regions.

In an area like my electorate, one of the biggest challenges is transport infrastructure, partly because we have one of the biggest commuter bases in New South Wales. My colleague from the Central Coast would have a similar story to tell. Approximately 20,000 people a day commute from the Illawarra to Sydney and to Western Sydney for work. A lot of those are back-office jobs—finance jobs and HR jobs. If those people could get secure, fast network access from home, the reality could well be a transformation in the way they work. They could actually work from home two or three days a week. The National Broadband Network has the capacity to transform the way we live. I think the member for Wentworth knows that and this is his cheap option to attack under instruction. (Time expired)