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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 6186

Mr FLETCHER (Bradfield) (19:00): The matter I want to speak about in the brief time available to me is the regrettably creative nature of the fact sheets—and I use that term advisedly—which have been issued by the National Broadband Network Co. I am referring in particular to one which is headed 'Case study: Healthcare—chronic illness' which contains this statement:

In 2010, Hunter Nursing participated in a pilot project with technology firm Intel to trial the Intel Health Guide, a remote patient monitoring system.

We are told in this case study issued by the National Broadband Network Co. that the pilot study involved 50 high-risk patients and that they were monitored using the Intel Health Guide, which is an in-home patient device with an online interface that allows clinicians to monitor patients in their homes via high-speed broadband. You might reasonably think that, because this fact sheet has been produced by the National Broadband Network Co., this application is going to need 100 megabits per second. We are, after all, told by this government that the National Broadband Network requires 100 megabits per second and there is a pressing need for that speed.

When Dr George Margelis of Intel-GE Care Innovations, who is cited in this fact sheet, appeared recently before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications to talk about this trial—which, just to be clear, I regard as a very interesting trial offering some very encouraging results—I asked him what bandwidth is required for this equipment to be workable. Mr Deputy Speaker, do you know what Dr Margelis said in answer to that question? He said at least 256 kilobits per second. He then said 512 kilobits per second would be better and that once you start getting up to one and two megabits you find that the technology no longer becomes an issue and you then start hitting constraints on the hardware.

Let us be very clear about what is going on here. We have a fact sheet issued by the National Broadband Network Co. which argues that the Hunter Nursing trial conducted in 2010 offers evidence of the need for the high-speed broadband network which the National Broadband Network Co. is rolling out at a cost we now know exceeds $50 billion and which is going to deliver 100 megabits per second using fibre to the home. The clear implication in this fact sheet is that you need these kinds of speeds to deliver services of the kind that were delivered in the trial conducted with Hunter Nursing last year. But when you look at the facts that is a wholly misleading statement, because the actual speed required is between 256 and 512 kilobits per second. Let us just briefly do the maths. What proportion of 100 megabits per second is 512 kilobits per second? I will tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is 1/200th. So the exemplar that we are given in this fact sheet provided by the National Broadband Network Co. which apparently justifies the expenditure on this massive project is an application which actually requires a speed which is only 1/200th of what we are told the National Broadband Network requires.

Sadly, this is not the only example of highly misleading fact sheets issued by the National Broadband Network Co. There is another one headed 'E-learning for teachers and trainers'. The impression you get from this is that the National Broadband Network Co., having installed fibre in Tasmania, is being used by this unit called Skills Tasmania. Yet when you read this in detail you learn the 'Skills Tasmania Office isn't connected to the NBN yet'. You also learn that, without a reliable ADSL connection, one student can still be downloading files while others have already moved on to the next task. I am sure that is right, but that suggests the solution that is required is to give people a reliable ADSL connection, not a ubiquitous 100 megabit per second fibre-to-the-home network.

I highlight these instances because they are really quite troubling. Both of the examples which are given in these fact sheets are perfectly sensible, desirable types of activity, but they do not need 100 megabits per second and they do not need the extraordinary amount of money that this government is spending in the National Broadband Network. (Time expired)