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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 3684


Mr BRIAN MITCHELL (Lyons) (13:00): Madam Deputy Speaker Claydon, I seek leave to continue my remarks on the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer) Bill 2017. I was most egregiously cut off by a faulty clock in the Federation Chamber yesterday, and I must give the parliament the benefit of the rest of my speech.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Claydon ): It was a challenging day in the Fed. Chamber yesterday. I understand leave is granted, so you can proceed with your five minutes additional speaking time.

Mr BRIAN MITCHELL: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was saying yesterday that further north in Lyons, in the township of Westbury, another of my constituents, Graeme, had been advised by NBN Co that he could commit to the NBN network. He signed up to receive the service. His business, home and fax lines were disconnected from the copper network so he could be connected to the NBN via fibre to the node, which had been run out through Westbury. It was only after he was disconnected from the copper network that Graeme was told he could not commit to the NBN because his home was too far from the node. As we know, copper can only go a certain distance with data transmission before it degrades. This is not a problem that would have occurred under Labor's fibre to the premises. If the government had stuck with Labor's fibre to the premises, there wouldn't have been this problem. So no-one told Graeme he could not get connected, until it was too late. His phone and fax lines were gone—phone and fax lines vital to his business.

Graeme spent weeks trying to get some sort of service connected. Finally, in complete desperation, he contacted me to voice his concerns and frustration and to let me know his accountancy business was in danger of closing—in danger of closing!—after many years, all because essential services were being denied to him, through no fault of his own. Once again, Margaret, in my Perth office, who's just a wonder, was instrumental in getting Graeme's phone and fax and ADSL internet reconnected. Unfortunately, the months had taken their toll, and Graeme still lost a considerable amount of business that he's now trying to make up for. He was on the brink. So much for a government that likes to brag that it is pro business. And we have heard plenty of evidence today from the member for Bendigo and the member for Oxley about the impact of this government's substandard NBN on businesses in their electorates.

The service is poor; the rollout is patchy. People are being disconnected from their old internet, even though they can't connect to the NBN. In some cases, people on the NBN are not even getting the same speeds that they used to get on ADSL and ADSL2. I know because I'm one of them. At home I'm on a fixed wireless tower. Now, that was fine when the tower went up six years ago. I live on an old sheep paddock. I don't expect to have a fibre connection to my place; I'm out in the sticks. I've got no problem being on the tower. When it was built six years ago, I had good service. But now, at peak time, it's hopeless—a two- or three-megabits-per-second service at peak time. And why? It's because developers have built new housing estates nearby, and, instead of providing the infrastructure to connect those homes to fibre to the node, they've left those homeowners to be connected to the tower. So there are hundreds more people accessing the signal than there should be, which is crunching down the speed.

I must mention here that, under Labor, Midway Point, which is near me, was one of the first places to get fibre to the premises. These new estates in Midway Point were meant to get fibre to the node, but, because of some loophole that allows developers to not necessarily provide the infrastructure that is required, these homes are ending up on fixed wireless instead.

The people of regional Australia know they are being left behind by the widening digital divide between city and country. Before I get to that, I just want to say that I've dealt with Telstra and NBN Co over my particular situation, but I never tell them I'm an MP. I think it's important that I get the same service as everybody else in the community. The way you have to deal with these companies drives you mad, including the long waiting times that Australians have to put up with to get simple resolutions. I've had four modems offered to be sent to me, even though I know it's not a modem issue. I had to move heaven and earth to get a technician to come to my premises and confirm: 'No, it's nothing to do with your technology. It actually is an overloaded tower.' Now we have to deal with NBN Co to see whether they will upgrade it.

This is part of the digital divide that people in the country face every day compared to those in the city, and that's a digital divide that Labor sought to narrow, not widen. It was no mistake that some of the first places to receive fibre to the premises under the original NBN were in regional Australia, including my electorate, because Labor believes that every Australian deserves quality internet, not just those who live in Wentworth and other wealthy, leafy, inner-city suburbs.