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Tuesday, 30 July 2019
Page: 1468


Mr CONROY (Shortland) (19:30): One of the many complaints coming from my constituents is still about the National Broadband Network, the delivery of which is now four years behind schedule and over $21 billion over budget. Let me repeat that: four years over schedule and $21 billion over budget. The people I represent in this place continue to be frustrated by the sheer incompetence and ineptitude of the coalition and their second-rate NBN.

A very common complaint from constituents is that all their neighbours are connected to the network and that they cannot connect. For example, Adrian lives in Charlestown and has been told that his property should be NBN ready by October. Most of Charlestown has been connected for well over a year, and the other residents in the cul-de-sac that Adrian lives in are connected. The reason the NBN has given my office for not being able to connect his property is: 'because of the length of copper'. That is not a joke. Not only is this second-rate network relying on copper but the NBN does not have enough copper to connect Adrian, and this is in spite of the government buying thousands of miles of extra copper. Another constituent had terrible problems in having his property connected, as the NBN were unable to find the actual property. This is despite being a standalone house in a suburban street. There were even difficulties, after my office became involved, with the NBN actually locating the house physically. Finally, I've recently been contacted by a constituent in an apartment block at Mount Hutton, not 10 minutes from my electorate office, whose complaint—justifiably so—is that all her neighbours in the block are connected and she is not.

As always, constituents try and sort out their problems for themselves and only after months of trying turn to their MP out of sheer desperation requesting assistance. These examples clearly expose the government's shallow boasts about the rollout of the network as completely and utterly false.

Another major complaint I receive is about internet speed. People are flabbergasted that they often had faster speeds with ADSL. This is not what Australians were promised by the coalition, and they expect and are entitled to much better. Australia is ranked 57th in the world for broadband speed. Trinidad and Tobago has faster broadband speeds, Panama has faster broadband speeds and Moldova has faster broadband speeds. This is not a joke. Although communication companies love to use these facts in their advertisements for their products, it really is a damning indictment of the government. The fact that developing countries have superior broadband speeds to an advanced economy like ours is certainly not a joke; it is a national disgrace.

My office regularly receives complaints regarding the NBN, and telecommunications generally, from the suburb of Caves Beach about 10 minutes south from my office—a beautiful spot. One of my constituents in Caves Beach has contacted me to complain that his download data rate is between 16 and 22 megabits. The NBN committed to providing broadband services with a minimum download rate of 25 megabits by the end of 2016. They've definitely missed this target. The whole intent of the NBN was to revolutionise our daily lives. One way that it should improve the way we communicate is in people's ability to work from home. This constituent is employed by a state government department and often needs to work from home and access his employer's network remotely. Because of both the unreliability of this service and the shocking speeds he experiences, it makes working from home very difficult to do.

The NBN offered so much. It provided great options for telecommuting to ease congestion on our roads. It offered the breakthroughs of telehealth to improve the strain on our health system. This government, because it cut corners and because the then opposition leader, Tony Abbott, tried to weaponise it in the lead-up to the 2013 campaign, in the end delivered a second-rate system and a second-rate network that will have to be fixed over time by whoever is in power in the decades to come. That is a great shame, because it would have been much cheaper and more efficient to do it properly the first time. As I said, it is now four years over schedule and $21 billion over budget.

The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government has let Australians down with the rollout of the National Broadband Network, and all members of this House are aware of this because our offices continue to receive regular complaints about the NBN. So many of my constituents are missing out on the hugely significant benefits of the NBN because of the problems I've outlined today, and the Liberals should be ashamed of their shocking and negligent oversight of this vital and necessary infrastructure.