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Thursday, 16 August 2018
Page: 5040


Senator URQUHART (TasmaniaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (13:56): I rise to speak on the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer) Bill 2018 and the Telecommunications (Regional Broadband Scheme) Charge Bill 2018. As my colleague Senator Watt has just indicated, yesterday afternoon we heard some very concerning details about the Turnbull government's plans for regional broadband users, details that clearly demonstrate that the Liberal and National parties do not care about regional Australia, details that clearly demonstrate that the Liberal and National parties are happy for people in regional Australia—families on the fringe of towns, businesses on the land, and hard-working small-business people who work from home—to pay more for less.

Yesterday before a Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network, NBN Co admitted its plans to charge regional Australians on the fixed wireless network $20 per month more than a customer on the same 50 megabits-per-second speed who lives in the city—$20 a month, $240 a year. And this charge is likely to attract the 10 per cent GST so, in fact, it will be an impost on those Australians who happen to be on the fixed wireless service of over $264 a year. This equates in percentage terms to someone in the regions paying 44 per cent more than someone in a nearby town for the same 50 megabits per second. What sort of government would allow this to happen? Well, let me tell you, the Turnbull government allowed this to happen. What sort of government would abandon Australians like this? The Turnbull National-Liberal government is a government led by a man who knows the fine details of the swing against him in the Braddon by-election, who claims to have created the internet and who even claims to have created the term 'Battery of the Nation', who does not care about the regions, who doesn't care about small family businesses, and who doesn't care about creating opportunities for all Australians.

You see, the people who are typically on fixed wireless are those living on the outskirts of our regional towns and cities. They may be farmers, they may have a small land holding or they may be on a normal residential block. They have either moved to the urban fringe to enjoy the country lifestyle or because the price of housing is more affordable than in a town or city. They face the same cost-of-living challenges as those in the towns, except they need to get in the car every time they need anything. To impose an arbitrary $264 charge on these households per year will only make things harder. It will mean that many will go without decent broadband for their small business or family, or they will go without something else—maybe a family holiday, a trip away. This Prime Minister cannot—

The PRESIDENT: Order! It being 2 pm, the debate is interrupted. Senator Urquhart, you will be in continuation.