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Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Page: 7178


Senator PRATT (3:20 PM) —Having risen in this take note of answers debate, I note it is a spectacular week in which to be able to reflect on the government’s narrative. Here we are, a year after the election of the Rudd Labor government, being able to reflect very proudly, I think, on our achievements. This week we have delivered and brought into the public arena our Fair Work Australia legislation. Look at the mandate that we received from the people on this issue. Here we are in this parliament with the legislation having been introduced into the other place, legislation that delivers fairness for working families, fairness for the underpaid and fairness in the bargaining process. What else have we got to say about our narrative? Well, here we are tackling climate change—


Senator Parry —I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy President. It goes to relevance as to the topic. We are discussing and debating the motion to take note of the answers given by Senator Conroy, not the performance of the government over the last 12 months.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —We do usually allow fairly broad discussion in taking note of answers, but I would remind Senator Pratt that the motion was to take note of the answers given by Senator Conroy today.


Senator PRATT —Thank you, Mr Deputy President. After talking about climate change, I would now like to acknowledge the economy. It was going to be my next topic, but one of the achievements that I think the government can look to is its substantial progress on delivering on the broadband agenda. All of the issues that I have highlighted were key issues at the last election: Work Choices, moving towards Fair Work Australia; climate change and the lack of progress of the previous government on an emissions trading scheme; high inflation, high interest rates and mismanagement of the economy, on which Labor is now delivering stable financial management in this time of crisis; and progress towards the kind of telecommunication and information infrastructure that this country so desperately needs. I would like to congratulate and commend Minister Conroy on the way he has managed this very large and substantial process. A lot of money is being put through this tender process. These are substantial and weighty matters, and I would like to compliment him on the way in which he has conducted himself. It is very important that he listens to important probity advice.

The Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday that there will be full public knowledge of the bids because it is up to the bidders themselves to announce the bids. The Deputy Prime Minister did not indicate that the government would be making a statement on the number of bids. Our government’s process is consistent with the probity advice received. I do not think we should be making ongoing comments on the number of bids, who the bidder is or what is contained in the bidding process because, frankly, they do not add any value to the process. We have significant, weighty issues before us, and they are far more substantial than that.

In 11½ years those opposite stood by and did nothing while our international peers started to roll out high-speed fibre based networks. You were too slow. In its election commitments, the Rudd government recognised the need for a long-term approach to nation building. Indeed, it is part of ensuring our nation’s prosperity. So we put together a $4.7 billion plan to facilitate the rollout of the national broadband network. As we all know, broadband is critical infrastructure today. Frankly, the electorate of Australia judged the opposition’s plans in this regard as simply not good enough. They could see through them.

I understand the frustrations of my constituents in not being able to receive the level of service that they require. Businesses and individuals need to do business more efficiently, and so completely new technology is required. People did not anticipate the significant demands that would be placed on our system—the opposition certainly did not. But the Rudd Labor government did. It put together these very substantial changes. We are looking at the necessary regulatory changes. We have also said that the network needs to foster the kind of competition that we require through— (Time expired)