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Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Page: 4136

Broadband


Senator URQUHART (TasmaniaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (14:43): My question is to the Minister for Communications, Senator Fifield. Senator Martin, the government's newest senator, has described the Turnbull government's second-rate NBN as like 'driving a Mercedes-Benz to the node and then jumping on a penny-farthing'. Given that three-quarters of homes and businesses in Braddon are stuck with copper connections to the node, does the minister agree that the Turnbull government has forced three-quarters of homes and businesses to jump on penny-farthings?

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I ask for silence—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left! I ask for silence during questions.

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: On my right, now.





Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaMinister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:44): Thank you, Senator Urquhart, for your question. Under this government, the NBN is now available to more than half the nation. It will be concluded by 2020, and that is a good six to eight years sooner than would have been the case under those opposite, and at $30 billion less cost. But let me explain to colleagues what this government is doing in using the multi-technology mix. Our mandate to NBN is to use the technology that makes sense in a given area, to see the NBN rolled out fastest and at lowest cost. That approach is what is done in the United States. That approach is what is done in Europe. We are doing what the rest of the world does, and that is: using a range of technologies. It is only in vertical city states, such as Singapore, where they pursue a one-technology approach, because that is something that is cost effective. In large nations, such as ours and the United States, and in places such as Europe, a range of technologies are used, and that is exactly what we're doing. It is because we're using a range of technologies that the NBN is going to be completed six to eight years sooner than would have otherwise been the case. That means the whole nation gets the economic benefits of the NBN much sooner than would have otherwise been the case. NBN have commissioned work by the economic consultancy firm AlphaBeta—work by Dr Andrew Charlton, a former economics adviser to Kevin Rudd—which shows that the economic benefits of the NBN are already flowing through to communities throughout Australia, including Tasmania and the electorate of Braddon.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Urquhart, a supplementary question.



Senator URQUHART (TasmaniaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (14:45): Minister, given that Prime Minister Turnbull and 99 per cent of his electorate can access speeds of 100 megabits per second while only 25 per cent of homes and businesses in Braddon can access that speed, isn't Senator Martin right to describe the Turnbull government's NBN as 'second-rate'?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaMinister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:46): As part of this government's mandate to NBN, 90 per cent of the fixed-line footprint nationwide will be able to get speeds of 50 megabits per second, and there are large areas that will get speeds well in excess of that. The ironic thing about Senator Urquhart's question was that she referred to the electorate of Wentworth, which, like a number of capital cities, has what's called the HFC or pay TV cable. Those opposite used to say the HFC pay TV cable was not fit for purpose; it was no good. What they now do is cite that any area that has the HFC pay TV cable is an area that's getting service that's superior to other areas. They can't have it both ways. They can't say that, on the one hand, HFC pay TV cable is no good and can't deliver fast speeds for NBN but then, when it suits their argument, flip it the other way and say, 'Gee, HFC pay TV cable is fantastic. We wish more of the nation had it.' (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Urquhart, a final supplementary question.



Senator URQUHART (TasmaniaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (14:47): Minister, the Prime Minister promised Australians that his NBN would be faster, more affordable and delivered sooner. Given that we now know his NBN has penny-farthing speeds, has blown out by $20 billion and is four years behind schedule, when will the Turnbull government take responsibility for the second-rate NBN enjoyed by the people on the north-west coast of Tasmania?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaMinister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:47): When the government came into office we commissioned a strategic review, which found that the NBN was in even worse condition than anyone had thought. From the time we came into government we said the NBN would be completed by 2020, and we are on track to complete it by 2020. That strategic review also found that those opposite would not have been able to deliver the NBN using their model and approach until about 2026 or 2028 and that it would have cost $30 billion more. If your NBN costs $30 billion more, that means that those who are on broadband would have to pay on average $500 a year more for their NBN. Under us, people get the NBN sooner, the nation gets it at less cost and consumers will get it at $500 a year less than would have been the case under those opposite.