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Speech at the NBN Co Connections launch, Armidale

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Speech at the NBN Co Connections Launch, Armidale WED 18 MAY 2011

Prime Minister

PM: Thank you very much

I’d like to acknowledge my Parliamentary colleague, the Minister who has driven this project, Stephen Conroy. Can I also acknowledge Tony Windsor, we spent yesterday in Tamworth and knew that we were coming to another great day here today in Armidale.

Can I also say thank you very much to Deborah for having us in her school and thank you to all of the girls, from PLC who have joined us for this event.

On the way here in the car I was joking with Tony Windsor about my school days and during my high school days my mother thought that it was very important that I should learn to type. She came to the conclusion that a girl could always get a job if she could type, and so she got me over a number of school holidays to learn to touch type on an Olivetti Manual. Now, I think reflecting on that we can see a few things from that story.

Number one - I’ve come a long way since those days that I was learning to type.

Number two - people’s perceptions of roles for women in our society have changed a fair bit from the days that my mother concluded the best way you could ensure that a girl could get a job was to make sure she could type.

And third - I think we can conclude that technology’s come a long way too, from the days of the Olivetti Manual, and I was joking with Tony in the car that when I told that story at a school, about learning to type on a manual typewriter, a young boy in the audience helpfully added ‘I saw one of them once in a museum’. Thank you for that.

We’re here to celebrate moving on from the Olivetti Manual typewriter, and we’re here to celebrate it in a very great place, in this community of Armidale, and can I say thank you to the community for the enthusiasm and passion that you’ve brought to this project, to the roll out of the NBN. It’s been made possible because of the great leadership by the local council, thank you for that; great leadership in the local university, thank you very much for that, too; and that support of our State government colleagues, thank you for their support.

Now, the NBN is the greatest infrastructure project in this nation’s history. No better place for it to start on mainland Australia than here. Of course, this is a city, the city of Armidale

that prides itself on being a city with energy, vision, opportunity as its mantra. Armidale says about itself that it wants to be clean and green, vibrant, dynamic, innovative, professional, accessible and globally linked. Now, that’s a great aspiration for this city; it’s a great aspiration for regional areas; and it’s our aspiration for regions around the country.

We want to allow regions to build more diverse economies. We want to attract new families to live in great places like this one. We want to give young people the chance to build a future right here, rather than feeling that they need to move to a big city, and nothing is more important to achieving that vision of the future than the NBN.

This is a transformative infrastructure for our nation’s future. It stands to radically change the way we live, the way we work, the way we study, especially in rural and regional Australia, which has been so often forced to put up with second best - but no more.

The NBN will connect regional communities with the best medical experts through e-health; it will connect regional communities with the arts and creative industries; it will enable people to work at home and create businesses where they live; it will equip firms to compete on the world stage no matter where they are; and it has the potential to transform every school and every campus, connecting them like never before.

Today we are going to witness a demonstration of the NBN’s capabilities. Students from two regional communities - one in Tasmania, and right here - will be connected and we will see them perform together in a joined up choir in real time. Now if we can see that today, imagine what else can be done across this network - joint lesions, sharing teaching resources,

excursions without ever leaving the classroom. The possibilities are absolutely endless and truly global.

Friends, the NBN rollout here in Armidale has gone from start to finish in just 10 months, with 105 kilometres of fibre optic cable laid, connecting almost 3,000 premises, making the NBN available to every school in Armidale - government and non-government alike - and joining up university and TAFE students, to bring the opportunities of further education to Australians, no matter where they live.

Later today, after this very important event, I will be announcing funding for a new education trial as part of our digital regions initiative, involving the University of New England and the New England Institute of TAFE. The trial will use the power of this technology to provide state-of-the-art virtual interactive training rooms, laboratories and a community learning capability.

This is education in our century, in the 21st Century. It’s education that overcomes the tyranny of time and distance that has so often held regional Australia back. The trial will unlock the same possibilities that we are going to see here at PLC.

Today there will be an art lesson, which will show exactly what the NBN can do. In the past teachers could old show paintings from the pages of a book or on a slide - today you will pay a virtual visit to a great gallery, like the Tate in London, or the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the feel will be as if you were really there.

And unlike the old copper-based internet service, slow connections will be a thing of the past. Multiply that experience millions of times over, in workplaces, schools, TAFEs, universities, homes and that’s the NBN.

Today’s connection ceremony is the beginning of a great journey for our nation. By decade’s end, the whole of Australia will be connected by superfast broadband. The decades-long monopoly of Telstra will be broken, allowing all telcos to compete freely and fairly, and a new era of communications will arrive, with devices and applications we are only beginning to experience and to understand.

I have only one response to the critics of the NBN - come here to Armidale. The NBN is real, it’s here, and we will not stop until the last cable is laid and the last home connected.

I very proudly launch the NBN at its first site in mainland Australia. A great day for Armidale, a great day for Australia. The future begins here and it begins today.

Thank you very much.