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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 3656


Ms McBRIDE (Dobell) (10:44): I will pick up from where I left off yesterday in the debate on the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer) Bill 2017 and the related bill, with just some of the 490 NBN complaints that my office has helped our constituents handle. Yesterday I mentioned the 'You're not on the map' NBN problem. Today I will start with the 'It's somebody else's problem' NBN problem.

Abigail is from Blue Haven and runs a mobile locksmith business with her husband. When they applied to have their business connected to the NBN, their landline was cut off before switching, resulting in missed calls and lost business. When they asked Telstra to fix the problem, Telstra advised that it was not their responsibility and referred them to the NBN. Guess what? The NBN referred them back to Telstra—back and forth, back and forth. Then there's: 'Oops! You need a landline to operate your medic alert.' This one is really serious. As a pharmacist who worked in a hospital, I understand it. Of particular concern to me is the case of an 85-year-old constituent who contacted me because her landline had not been working properly for six months. This was particularly worrying, because, like many older Australians, she had a medic alert system which operates through her landline. When she tried to get Telstra to fix the problem, Telstra claimed it was an NBN issue, and NBN told her it was a Telstra problem—and so it goes on.

It is not surprising, given that my office has handled over 490 NBN complaints, that yet again we hit the top of the league table in the TIO report. In the last six months of 2017, there was a reported 203 per cent surge in NBN complaints compared with the same period a year earlier and, all the while, the Turnbull government has been a bystander in my community. They simply don't care about people or small business owners who are struggling with this substandard service, particularly in regional areas. This is not acceptable for somebody trying to operate a small business. It's not acceptable for people relying on the landline to stay safe and connected in their homes. It is not acceptable for school students or people trying to do TAFE or uni. It just isn't working.

Normally, as a local member, I would be pleased to see a suburb in my electorate at the top of a league table, but, unfortunately, Toukley in my electorate is the top postcode in Australia for complaints to the TIO, and the main issue being complained about is unreliable landline services. That's not all. Wyong in my electorate, where I grew up, is also in the top 10 postcodes in Australia for complaints to the TIO. In this case, it is for delays in NBN connections. I will give an example. This is the case of Albert and Christine. This one is known—and some of you may know it—as the 'paperclip procedure'. Albert and Christine have had to endure the all-too-familiar ordeal of attempting to get answers from their service provider about the dropouts that result in missed telephone calls and crashed websites. They spent hours on the phone and were sent several new modems. They also became pretty handy at performing the paperclip procedure, which most of us know from being forced to reset modems over and over and over again. At least Albert kept his sense of humour throughout the whole ordeal, suggesting the NBN might stand for the 'No Bells Network', given their home phone rarely rang and most telephone calls would divert automatically to voicemail. While Albert and Christine's service was eventually restored, Albert noted that even the Telstra representative admitted to him that the copper network was so unreliable that he couldn't guarantee that it wouldn't happen again. This is what Albert had to say on the NBN:

It is a shame this current Government has virtually destroyed a brilliant idea but it is also extremely sad that the Post-Master General's Department was not re-established as the sole provider which would have been much better at organising a superior service for communications.

This can't go on, particularly in regional centres like mine where the NBN was meant to transform our community.

Labor is committed to a sustainable funding arrangement to support and improve NBN services in regional Australia. These failures of the current government have placed pressure on the sustainability of the future funding arrangements of the NBN. Labor supports measures that create a level playing field for competition in telecommunications. There were better and more efficient ways to achieve this than the bill currently before the House. However, we won't oppose the bill in the chamber today.

Ultimately, the Prime Minister owns this levy. It is for the Prime Minister to explain why the government wants to give big business an $80 billion tax cut while introducing a new telecommunications charge that will add $84 to the annual broadband bill of households on non-NBN networks. It is for the Prime Minister to explain why occupants of new homes on non-NBN fibre networks will eventually have to pay an extra $84 per year on their internet bill. It is for the Prime Minister to explain why it is always the Australian customer and the Australian taxpayer who foot the bill for his poor judgement and policy failures. Regional Australians know that, when it comes to broadband, only Labor will be there to consistently deliver on their behalf. As we've done for over a decade, we will continue to put regional consumers front and centre of our policymaking.