Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 10 March 2005
Page: 58

Senator EGGLESTON (2:17 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Coonan. Will the minister please advise the Senate of how broadband internet is being rolled out around the country—

Senator Bolkus —Very slowly!

Senator EGGLESTON —and is the minister aware of any alternative policies?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —Whoever across the chamber said, ‘Very slowly,’ is dead wrong, as I will now prove. I do thank Senator Eggleston for the question. As senators on this side of the chamber are aware, broadband or high-speed internet access is of great interest to Australians from all walks of life and is simply transforming the way people do business and live their lives. Once you use broadband, of course, there is no going back. I am pleased to say that I am aware of some very positive news that has been released today by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The snapshot of broadband deployment released today shows that, in the year to December 2004, broadband take-up has grown by 121.6 per cent. This can hardly be the sector that Senator Moore was trying to tell the Senate yesterday was a disaster. Take-up has more than doubled in 12 months. This is truly phenomenal growth. As at 31 December the ACCC has found that there were more than 1½ million broadband customers in Australia, almost 850,000 of them signing up in just the past 12 months. Obviously, the government’s $107.8 million Higher Bandwidth Incentive Scheme for rural and regional areas is one of the many factors in this dramatic increase and, of course, competition in the market is clearly the other factor. The figures speak for themselves. The broadband roll-out in Australia has rolled right over Labor’s baseless claims of a disaster.

Not only is the take-up of broadband rocketing ahead but the technology continues to improve. Just today, Telstra announced a $210 million investment in upgrading its ADSL broadband network to ADSL 2 Plus. ADSL 2 Plus will provide broadband speeds of up to 20 times faster than typical ADSL broadband. Telstra has announced that, by the middle of this year, half a million premises will have access to these upgraded exchanges. Importantly, other companies, including iiNet, Internode, SPT and Optus have announced that they will be rolling out competitive ADSL 2 Plus infrastructure into Telstra’s exchanges, making the most of the government’s access regime. Despite all this, there is no doubt that, as the telecommunication debate continues, senators opposite will try to manufacture disasters that do not exist.

Senator Conroy interjecting—

Senator COONAN —Senator Conroy is going to have to spend a bit less time eulogising about soccer games and a bit more time trying to work out what is happening in his portfolio. He is going to have to go further than Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne to understand what is happening in rural and regional Australia.

Labor’s record on communications is very patchy. That is not surprising. In 13 years of government they had eight different ministers and, to be frank, Labor have some serious ground to make up if they are going to take part in this current debate on telecommunications. Senator Conroy said today, ‘We want to be part of this debate around the regulatory framework.’ Welcome on board, Senator Conroy. You are a bit late, but I am sure you will be able to catch up. As recently as August last year, Labor senators were suggesting the government should adopt dial-up internet technology. That would have cost taxpayers $5 billion. They would have done their dough. I think that the voters of Australia and those using services in Australia are better sticking with this government that is all about delivering access at affordable prices right across Australia.

Senator Conroy interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Conroy, I would remind you again that shouting across the chamber is disorderly.

Senator Chris Evans —Mr President, I raise a point of order. I want to draw your attention to the fact that, when the minister in replying to a question refers all her comments to a senator and addresses him personally, it is likely—and you seem not to hear this—that it will then incite a response from the senator, such as Senator Conroy, in responding to the minister. So if the minister wants to continue to refer to him, contrary to standing orders, you will find senators responding. So I suggest you might like to bring the minister to order and ask her to address her remarks to you, Mr President, in accordance with standing orders.

The PRESIDENT —All senators are expected to address their remarks through the chair, but that does not deny the fact that shouting across the chamber is disorderly. Senator Conroy is a main offender because he has a very loud voice.

Senator Chris Evans —Mr President, on the point of order: I would like you to acknowledge, though, that it is out of order for the minister to personally address remarks to a senator when answering a question. If the minister is in denial she ought to read the Hansard, because she did it on at least three occasions.

Senator Coonan —Mr President, on the point of order: I did make some comments about Senator Conroy. I addressed no comments to him.

The PRESIDENT —Can we continue with question time. I would again remind all ministers and senators to address their remarks through the chair and cease interjecting.