Speaking to NBN Motion

Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (10:47): When it comes to broadband in this country, Australians know two things. The first is that we need a modern network—because our economy needs it, regional communities need it and future generations of Australians need it. The second thing they know, and they know deeply, is that every single thing that the Abbott government promised would happen with the NBN is not happening and that everything that is happening in this country with the NBN is a throwback to when the coalition were last in government. They are taking us back to a situation we have experienced before, with a complete inability to get broadband rolled out in this nation.

They promised fibre to the node—their version of the NBN—would be at scale and rolling out at full speed. It is not happening. They promised every home and business would have access to 25 megabits per second download speeds by the end of 2016. It ain't going to happen. They promised it would roll out cheaper. It is not happening. It is actually double the cost of what they promised. Finally, they promised that, by 2019, the entire network would be built. It is not going to happen. Every single thing they have promised is not occurring. These are problems of their own making.

The first fatal flaw is that fibre networks, by their very nature, take time to roll out and to get the speed of the rollout happening. They need time for the architecture, network planning, logistics and supply and labour arrangements to be put in place. All this takes time to build up, but, once it happens, you can start getting the rollout moving with quite a pace. But, the minute the government got into office, they pulled the handbrake on the entire process, largely through this cavalcade of review after review after review, sending the signal that they were not going to be proceeding in a way that would see the rollout occur by 2021, which is what was originally promised by the Labor in government.

They took time, for example, to negotiate the Telstra agreement. It took ages for that to happen. And what happened as a result of that agreement? We did not get an agreement about optic fibre. We did not get an agreement about a future network. We got an agreement to dust off the old copper network and to breathe life back into an old network that, time and again, has shown that it is incapable of dealing with the modern needs of businesses and homes in this country that require faster speeds. They have celebrated the return of copper when countries around the world are welcoming fibre. It is simply ridiculous that we are being forced as a nation to see the entire rollout shudder to a halt.

Where are we now? We are absolutely back to where we were when the coalition were last in government. Remember, the thing that occurred under their government was not the rollout of fibre; it was 19 separate broadband plans that attempted to deliver a better network and were incapable of doing so. This is the fault of one person—one person and one person only—and I am not talking about the Prime Minister, who is still regaled by the wonder of the operation of a fridge light. It is the man who is capable of explaining that to him and explaining the need for that to happen, the man who the PM has told us was responsible for practically inventing the internet, and that is Malcolm Turnbull, the member for Wentworth. He has been enamoured with question time performances that obsessed about Senator Conroy or wanted to tell us movie metaphor after movie metaphor and go through the dramatics, but do you know what? You do not see in question time the Minister for Communications over there explaining how well things are going, because he cannot. He cannot explain how they are going well, because they are not going well, because on every single measure this rollout has slowed down and ground down to a halt.

The opportunities are basically lost opportunities. There are frustrated communities. In my area, there are broadband blackspots, and we have worked for ages to get them fixed, in suburbs like Woodcroft. We finally got them onto the rollout map only to have them taken off the rollout map by this government then put back on the rollout map—but not the entire suburb, which was a broadband blackspot, being fixed; only half of the suburb. So you can go to Lakewood Drive in Woodcroft. The southern side has access to fibre to the home, fibre to the premises, but north of Lakewood Drive does not. Time and again I have appealed for Woodcroft to be included.

If the minister thinks that fibre to the node works, prove it. Show it. But do not let communities be stuck with a substandard network that is incapable of meeting their current needs. Everything the government have touched with broadband has turned to dust, and everyone is paying for it, other than them.

Debate adjourned.

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley


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