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Thursday, 24 February 2011
Page: 1450

Mrs GASH (4:30 PM) —The much awaited pilot NBN trial at Kiama Downs and Minnamurra in my electorate of Gilmore has so far been a trial of deceit, misinformation and dismay of local residents. Kiama Downs and Minnamurra are both very significant suburbs in my electorate. Many residents attended information days and were excited at the prospect of obtaining broadband where they could not access it before.

Mr Sidebottom interjecting

Mrs GASH —Do you want to speak, or is it my turn? Local residents have had many problems and issues with the installation. Yet another problem has come to light in the last few days. Perhaps it would be best if I explain the latest debacle with the trial by quoting page 6 of the Australian newspaper of Wednesday, 9 February:

Hugo and Olga Arnet live in Kiama Downs on the NSW south coast, one of five test sites for the government’s … NBN.

                     …                  …               …

But having been promised, at an information session in August, that all cabling would be underground—and then gritting their teeth as the front lawn was dug up in September so the conduits could be laid—the Arnets were stunned when contractors returned to hang cables as well.

“They went down the road and up the road, and we thought at least we won’t have an ugly cable in front (of the house),” Mr Arnet said.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when, in January, they started to hang an ugly black cable about a metre below the power lines.”

But it is not only Mr and Mrs Arnet who have been duped by NBN; Mrs Lorraine Hardy of Kiama Downs has come to me, highly distressed about being told she will have wires on her power pole, which in the past has caught fire, owing to salt build up. When Mr John Williams of Minnamurra invited me to his house to inspect NBN’s work, I was overwhelmed by stories from numerous other residents in his neighbourhood who have all been subjected to the same NBN bullying.

Most Kiama and Minnamurra residents have over the last few months watched NBN Co. dig up their lawns and drive heavy machinery over their gardens, all for the underground installation of an optical fibre network. Despite the continuous digging and despite the big industrial manholes labelled ‘NBN Co.’ now in their front lawns, NBN has now gone to residents demanding that they accept big black cables hanging off their roofs or they will get nothing. Despite the completed conduit in the front yards of these houses in Minnamurra and Kiama Downs, NBN Co. has refused to explain why these residents cannot receive an underground installation. All the residents get is a final demand—let NBN hang the thick black cables in the air over your property or you will get nothing.

As soon as I started to ask questions of NBN Co., Mr John Williams was promptly offered an underground connection. Funny thing that. This begs the question: if underground installations are possible to these affected houses, as shown by NBN’s backflip towards Mr Williams, then why is it dragging residents through this stupidity and arrogance in the first place?

I have never seen a government project that has caused so many unnecessary problems. Wait, actually I have. There were the school halls or BER projects, the pink batts program and the housing stimulus debacle, which has left many of our subcontractors still without pay—and that is just to name a few. I can now see why the NBN is going to cost Australia $50 billion: because NBN Co. is going to be digging trenches before putting the NBN up on power poles. Maybe they have gone beyond the tip point. Is that why they will not answer the questions?

One resident who was promised underground cabling spoke to me and said she now has three thick black NBN wires crossing her property, only one of which is hers. One resident has had to have a strengthened support bracket attached to her roof because of the weight and thickness of the black NBN wires that were supposed to be sent underground in the first place.

This installation of the NBN so far has been simply absurd. Last time I raised the problems that my constituents were having with the NBN, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, personally labelled me a Luddite. The Prime Minister can label me however she wants, but it is not going to stop me from bringing to her attention the significant flaws with her grand NBN scheme or taking to her any of my constituents’ concerns in the future. I just hope the Prime Minister has the courage this time to actually ask NBN Co. what is going on in my electorate.