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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 3009


Ms KEAY (Braddon) (10:55): I rise to draw the chamber's attention to the ongoing saga of connecting the west coast of Tasmania to the NBN. The west coast is isolated and has a challenging climate. The local economy is a mix of mining, aquaculture and tourism. Recent tragedies at the Mount Lyell copper mine in Tasmania and its subsequent closure, combined with lower metals prices, have seen a significant economic downturn on the west coast. Despite this, this region still has an annual gross state product of around $372 million from a population of 4½ thousand.

Yet, for the economy to grow and diversify, it needs the best possible infrastructure. When Labor announced a full-fibre NBN, we highlighted the ability for such infrastructure to remove the disadvantage of distance, allowing such communities to access health and education, for example, in new ways. The NBN under Labor was always about equity and providing modern infrastructure that would leverage economic growth. When it comes to delivering the NBN to the west coast, Labor's policy has always been fibre-to-the-premises NBN to connect Queenstown, Rosebery and Zeehan, and a mix of other technologies for smaller towns in outlying areas.

But what is the coalition's policy for the NBN? Before the 2013 federal election, the now Prime Minister promised the coalition would honour all existing contracts and roll out the NBN to all Tasmanian homes and businesses by 2015. That is a fail. He then broke these promises and said the west coast would be connected to the second-rate fibre-to-the-node network. He broke that promise, too. In 2015, he then quietly put the west coast on the NBN satellite without informing the community. It is fair to say the community were up in arms, knowing the satellite would not work given the climate and terrain of the west coast, and an unrelenting campaign ensued.

The former Liberal member for Braddon ignored and dismissed the community's pleas for many, many months. I would like to pay tribute to the community that never relented and that stood its ground with the backing and support of the West Coast Council and Mayor Phil Vickers. Finally, in the dying days of the election, a desperate coalition relented and promised to connect the major towns to second-rate fibre-to-the-node service. This is now the fourth coalition west coast NBN policy in the space of three years, yet it comes with strings attached.

During Senate estimates, NBN Co admitted it does not whether the existing copper network is capable of delivering the fibre-to-the-node service and further said, if the copper network is incapable, then those west coast towns could actually end up with fibre to the premises.

So under the coalition, after four different policy positions, failures and years of waiting, the outcome could be Labor policy. It is really simple: rather than continuously stuffing around the west coast, the coalition should admit their policy is wrong and provide the west coast with the NBN it needs and deserves. (Time expired)