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Monday, 13 August 2018
Page: 4604

Senator WATT (Queensland) (21:44): I note that the Senate will shortly be adjourning, so I will begin my remarks and continue them when the debate resumes, which I understand may not be until next week, given the business before the Senate for the remainder of this week. For the many thousands of people listening at home, you'll have to tune back in to hear the remaining 16 minutes of my speech, and I'm pleased about that because it gives me a little bit of time to write the next 16 minutes of my speech! I'll see how I go for the next four minutes. Hopefully we're down to about 3½ minutes now.

I'll use the remaining time before the adjournment debate to outline the general purpose of the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer) Bill 2018 and Telecommunications (Regional Broadband Scheme) Charge Bill 2018. These bills have two main objectives, as has already been enunciated by Senator Bilyk. Firstly, they legislate with certainty that all premises in Australia can continue to access high-speed broadband infrastructure beyond the NBN rollout. That is an obligation that already exists but, by including it in this legislation, it takes things a step further and gives Australians legislative certainty around that obligation. The second objective of these bills is to introduce a telecommunications levy that will, on our and other people's estimates, add about $84 per year to the bills of up to 400,000 consumers and businesses on non-NBN networks.

The first aspect, providing legislative certainty that all premises will be able to continue to access high-speed broadband infrastructure, says something about this government's implementation and rollout of the NBN, that it needs to take the additional step of enshrining in legislation the level of certainty that all Australians are entitled to: that they will be able to continue to access high-speed broadband infrastructure. In this day and age, we know that having access to high-quality telecommunications, whether it be broadband internet or mobile phone services or other telecommunications services, is the lifeblood of business around the country and globally and is also important for individuals in their own households. It says something about the appalling rollout of the NBN under this government that, to provide Australians with some level of confidence about their access to telecommunications going forward, the government need to now enshrine that in legislation. From a Labor perspective, we don't have any issue with it being enshrined in legislation—and we will be supporting that—but it is a good statement of the level of concern that exists in the Australian community about this government's rollout that it needs to take that additional step.

In the second phase of my remarks, whenever we should resume, I'll be happy to provide the Senate with some of the instances that have been brought to my attention by constituents of mine in Queensland—particularly in regional Queensland—about the poor level of service that they have received from the NBN and from telecommunications providers in general. Hopefully, enshrining this level of certainty in legislation will provide regional Queenslanders with the certainty that they have not yet had when accessing telecommunications that they are entitled to in the modern era.

The second aspect of these bills is to introduce a telecommunications levy. It is deeply regrettable that, because of this government's botched rollout of the NBN, we now see the need for a regional broadband levy. Labor will have more to say about this in committee. We think that some amendments can be made that will improve what the government is putting forward, but we won't be opposing this outright as we understand that, under this government's rollout, the NBN has become a basket case. Financial difficulties have emerged, and something needs to be done to try to bring that into line.

As I travel around Queensland, no matter where you go, I have been amazed how unifying concern and discontent with the NBN is. My electorate office is on the Gold Coast. It is one of the issues that we receive the most complaints about, both from households and businesses alike. When I spend time in Central Queensland, the other area that I'm mainly responsible for, it's the same.

Debate interrupted.