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Thursday, 26 November 2015
Page: 13959

Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (10:49): I want to reflect on the sorry state of a project that should be a key infrastructure plank in delivering us a modern, stronger and flexible economy, and that is the National Broadband Network. We were told that with the election of this new government—in particular, now that it is headed by a Prime Minister who was the communications minister—we could expect better from them.

They reckon that instead of having 93 per cent of all Australian homes connected by fibre they will bring in this MTM, this multitechnology mix, which has been referred to as the Malcolm Turnbull model, in tech sectors. It would, as part of it, rely on the use of hybrid fibre coaxial that was used to deliver Pay TV and, in some instances, broadband. As most people know, particularly in my area that used to have it, the more people got onto an HFC network, the slower the network was. While there may have been technological changes that occurred after the election of the Abbott-Turnbull government, at that point it remained a big concern. To get it to work, HFC does require a lot of investment in it.

The Prime Minister used to chip me for my advocacy, for people in my area to get fibre to the premises. In fact, he used the floor of parliament to say: 'The member for Chifley knows well that the fibre network is being rolled out near his electorate, where there are not one but two high-speed broadband services already available.' He was right. On one side there was the Telstra HFC network, which would cost $105 a month if you wanted to get it. On the other side of the network was the Optus HFC network.

What has been interesting in the last 24 hours is the leaking of these documents, which show us—now that the government has purchased the HFC network from Optus—what it is like. We were told that this purchase would be at no additional cost to taxpayers for the use of this network, but it turns out that internal NBN documents claim the Optus network is not fully fit for purpose and other parts of the network are over-subscribed and do not have sufficient capacity to support NBN services.

What we are getting is, instead of having a dedication to fixed or fibre to the premises, this reliance on a multi-technology mix—that was going to limp on using HFC—is delivering subpar. This HFC network is 'highly fried cable', it is not about hybrid fibre coaxial. It is cable that needs to be completely replaced with a system that still will not deliver what it should, in terms of the speeds, downloads and uploads. We should have got the job right the first time. Instead, we have the vanity of a Prime Minister who thought he knew best and could deliver a technological solution that was better but is being proved wrong—yet again.