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Tuesday, 3 May 2016
Page: 4243


Mrs ELLIOT (Richmond) (17:09): I am very pleased to be speaking about this government's failure to deliver on the NBN for Australians. In particular, I would like to talk about those Australians living in regional and rural areas, who have especially been hit hard by this government's failings on the NBN. In country areas they blame the Prime Minister; they blame the coalition, and they especially blame the National Party for this dire situation—this lack of NBN.

I think this is one of the issues constituents speak to me about the most—this government's failure to provide for my electorate on the north coast of New South Wales. Constituents tell me that they are constantly frustrated that they cannot get any decent internet access. There are very slow speeds and lots of buffering. Just the other day a mother was telling me that her daughter, who is at university, often has to access a lot of her research material using her phone because the internet is so bad. It is a horrendous situation that they are not able to access the NBN in this day and age. What they are even more annoyed about is not only that they cannot access the NBN; they also only have a promise of a second-rate NBN through copper. That is all they have to look forward to. So instead of connecting Australia to the many great possibilities of the digital future with fibre optic cable, the Turnbull government is instead buying more copper. That is all they are doing.

The fact is that the Prime Minister was a failure as communications minister, and this second-rate NBN is now a total mess. He promised that everyone in the country would get the NBN this year—that is what he said—but more than 83 per cent of the country is still waiting for his second-rate network. He also promised that his version of the NBN would be rolled out faster and cheaper. He promised that his NBN would be built for $29.5 billion, and that cost has almost doubled to $56 billion. In 2013, he promised that his NBN would be rolled out to all homes and businesses by the end of 2016. That has more than doubled by seven years, and now the prediction is 2020. What a blow-out in the time frame. Also in 2013 the Prime Minister said that his second-rate copper NBN would cost $600 per home. This cost has nearly tripled to $1,600 per home.

Make no mistake at all: this disaster was created when the Prime Minister was the communications minister. In his two years as communications minister he did not connect a single paying customer to his fibre-to-the-node network—not one. It is outrageous. What is worse is that where the actual second-rate NBN has been switched on it is not working properly. That is another big issue. So many people are complaining across the country about slow speeds, disrupted services and long delays in getting connected. This is happening everywhere.

What is also really shameful is that Australia has gone backwards in the global broadband rankings yet again. Less than three years ago, Australia was ranked 30th in the world for the average peak connection speed. Where do we rank today? Sixtieth. How embarrassing is that? Australia's broadband ranking crashed 14 spots in the last quarter alone. We are behind most of Asia, most of Europe, the US and Canada. We are even behind Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Poland in terms of our internet connections.

In my electorate we have seen some of the limited rollout of the NBN wireless in some of those smaller areas. This was brought about by a Labor initiative. Also, we have had some satellite for rural areas, which was another Labor initiative in terms of those satellite rollouts. Fortunately, Labor signed the contract for delivery of the satellites before the Liberal-National government was sworn in, because they fought tooth and nail against all these satellites when in opposition. In fact the Prime Minister, I think, called it 'wasteful spending'. Thankfully Labor had the great foresight to commit to the satellites, because that means that people from regional and rural Australia can have the capacity to access high-speed internet. So it is Labor who delivers for regional Australia, not the Liberal-National Party, who were so opposed to these satellites which we now see in action. As I say, that is because of the Labor government.

The fact is that we might have had the roll out, say, in an electorate like mine. But thousands in my electorate are missing out, and that impacts so many people—small business people trying to run their business, students, families and all those educational institutions. They are all suffering because we do not have high-speed internet access. In areas like mine we also have a very strong creative hub. There are lots of film makers and artists—all of whom need the NBN for all their great creative activities. It is right across the community and across all different ages that desperately need to have the NBN in terms of their opportunities and for their families to go forward, and they are just not getting it.

The fact is we cannot have an innovative, agile community focused on job creation unless we have an effective NBN. That is the bottom line, especially in regional and rural areas. So many people move there because there are lots of opportunities. Those opportunities are often stymied because we do not have the NBN rolled out. It is going to take a Labor government to fix this mess that the Liberal-National Party has created with the NBN rollout.