Speech on NBN (Woodcroft) - Dec 4, 2013

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

BILLS

Telecommunications Legislation Amendment

(Submarine Cable Protection) Bill 2013

Second Reading

SPEECH

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

BY AUTHORITY OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Wednesday, 4 December 2013 HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 91

CHAMBER

SPEECH

Wednesday, 4 December 2013 Source House

Questioner Responder

Speaker

Husic, Ed, MP Question No.

Mr HUSIC

(Chifley) (18:35): I am rising to speak

on the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment

(Submarine Cable Protection) Bill 2013. It is designed

to protect the integrity, operation and security of

submarine cables that are critical in providing

telecommunications services between our continent

and the rest of the globe. There has been a longstanding

regime for protecting these cables. In fact, we are one

of the few countries in the world that has a regime in

place to do just this. These cables have been in place for

decades and the regime has been there to support their

continued and efficient operation. About three years

ago, the ACMA—the Australian Communications and

Media Authority—reviewed aspects of the regime, and

the review recommended a number of actions that the

minister spoke to when he introduced the legislation

to the House. Notably, it ensures consistency between

our cable protection regime and the United Nations

Convention on the Law of the Sea. It provides a

structured process for the consideration of matters

within the Attorney-General's portfolio concerning

submarine cable installation and permit applications. It

also enables significant domestic submarine cables or

cables that connect two places within our nation to be

brought under the regime and to be protected. It will

streamline permit processes that govern installation.

Finally, the bill contains some administrative and

technical amendments.

The bill takes on greater importance when we consider

how businesses are starting to respond to the demand

for cable capacity. It is not surprising that, as more

and more people and businesses begin to move into

the online world, they are effectively transferring the

way in which they operate from analog to digital

—digitising businesses, creating demand for data,

downloading more data and producing more data. The

Australian Bureau of Statistics found that in the 12

months to December 2012, in relation to fixed line

internet access, download of data had grown at a rate

of about 63 per cent. I have often quoted the fact that,

on figures that I have seen, the amount of data that is

expected to be produced globally will increase by a

phenomenal 4,300 per cent. The pressure is well and

truly on for us to have the ability to transmit that data.

So these cables are critical, particularly in linking us

into servers based in other continents, and having this

protection is vital.

In his second reading speech the Minister for

Communications said that this bill was important

in a wider context. He broadened the scope of his

contribution and focus to state:

But connectedness is not just about ensuring our

submarine cables—

which are the focus of the bill—

or satellite links or even backhaul fibre are of a

high standard—it is just as much about ensuring

that Australian mums and dads, school kids or small

business people can take advantage of the resources

and opportunities of the internet.

That then gave him a platform to broaden his

discussion and, amazingly, to say that the government

could claim that they are delivering a better National

Broadband Network. Their definition of 'better' is not

to use one of the best platforms available to deliver

data, which is fibre-optic cable. Their view of a better

national broadband network is to rely on copper as

the platform of the future—a technology that has been

used for 100 years. I heard the member for Perth

in her contribution quoting Telstra executives who,

some time ago, had said that they were sweating the

last moments of the copper network. This is what the

member for Wentworth has championed within his

party as the way of the future—copper. It is not NBNlite,

it is NBN-dull, because it will slow down the

ability to download data.

More importantly, as has often been reflected when it

comes to issues involving the internet and broadband

in this country, it is not just about download speeds but

about upload capacity. In terms of the tech sector in

Australia being able to conduct its work, to innovate,

this is the focus for the future. We are being condemned

with a fibre-to-the-node proposal that will dull down

the ability of Australians to get better speeds on both

download and upload. The minister in his speech

stated:

… we have committed to prioritising the NBN rollout

in areas with the poorest services so that those who

currently cannot connect, or have the poorest speeds,

get fast broadband sooner.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013 HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 92

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The

 

Sydney Morning Herald reviewed the minister's

plan in an article entitled 'Turnbull's broadband plan

too slow, too late'. The minister says that this is the plan

that will see those who suffer with the poorest services,

those who cannot connect, getting fast broadband

sooner.

The minister knows of my long-running advocacy on

behalf of residents in areas of the Chifley electorate

that have been condemned with poor service. When

the coalition was last in government it attempted 20

times to improve broadband and failed. For instance,

residents of Woodcroft in my electorate suffered for

ages. They were never going to see a fibre connection

established from the Blacktown exchange. They were

condemned with an overloaded copper network. In this

residential estate there had been no plan for a better

network. These residents had been condemned with

poor service.

In his second reading speech on this bill, the minister

reflected on the fact that he had been to Blacktown

in the Chifley electorate, and he said that this was an

area where Telstra HFC and Optus HFC cable existed.

Yes, it did. HFC exists in Sydney and Melbourne. It

was not widely opened up for household consumers to

access broadband. It was primarily used as a method of

delivering Foxtel signals, but it was not opened up for

people to access internet services.

As a result of advocacy undertaken by me in

conjunction with residents of Woodcroft, we were able

to work with Telstra to open up areas of the cable

broadband network in parts of Woodcroft as an interim

measure while we waited for the NBN. The NBN was

able to be rolled out in Woodcroft because it fell within

a fibre footprint area which, as we announced in July

2010, allowed Woodcroft—as a result of advocating on

their behalf and pushing for them to get broadband—

to be included in the three-year roll-out plan. Residents

of Woodcroft were finally able to see a ray of light that

would let them access better internet services, because

they knew the NBN was rolling out. In the interim

we opened up cable broadband in parts of that suburb,

which improved service dramatically, as well as an

investment in ADSL Top Hat, which saw capacity for

ADSL, particularly ADSL2, being offered to residents.

What happened?

Again, the minister says he is looking at prioritising

the rollout of broadband in areas that have had the

poorest connections. When the government announced

their updated maps for their NBN rollout plan a few

weeks ago, one of the mostly poorly served broadband

network areas, Woodcroft, was completely dropped

off the revised figures. The member for Wentworth

went to the election claiming that every construction

contract would be honoured, but he never had the

courage or the decency to say that he was going to

alter that commitment and break that promise once in

government.

The member for Wentworth basically manufactured a

deception on people who were expecting the NBN.

He changed the terms. He said he would only honour

contracts where the build instruction had been issued,

thereby robbing residents of Woodcroft and Doonside,

who were expecting to be connected to the NBN and

had been waiting for years to get better broadband.

They had been denied better broadband by the Howard

government and now they are being ripped off by the

Abbott government. This is from a person who makes

a big deal of the fact that he can catch public transport

and go out to Blacktown and say, 'There's HFC out

here.' He has a great sense of theatre. He does not have a

lot of modesty, but there are a lot of theatrical elements

to the minister, the member for Wentworth. He talked

about the fact that people could access HFC. In actual

fact, if you hop online and try to access HFC services

in the areas he looked at, you will see that not all the

providers provide HFC access to the HFC network.

So, clearly, he has not even done his homework.

Frankly, I would not expect much from a Minister for

Communications who advocates copper as a basis for

rolling out better broadband services into the future.

You are not really a fair dinkum communications

minister if you think that that is the thing that you need

to advocate for improving broadband in this country.

The member for Wentworth has ripped off Woodcroft

residents. Those residents have complained bitterly

about being left off the map. They do not deserve this

shabby treatment from the member for Wentworth.

He came out during the federal election to try to

snare votes. He then made a promise about improving

broadband services. He broke his promise after

manufacturing a deception on the residents of Western

Sydney. Then he slunk back to Bondi, which, funnily

enough, has way better connection then the residents

of Western Sydney are entitled to enjoy.

 

Mr Tudge:

 

Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek to intervene.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Broadbent ): Is the

member for Chifley willing to give way?

 

Mr HUSIC:

 

No. I am not interested in playing the

game with the member for Aston, who probably has

better broadband services for his constituents while we

are fighting to get improved services for residents in

my area.

 

Mr Tudge interjecting

 

 

Mr HUSIC:

 

Why don't you go and speak to the

member for Macquarie, who was present when we

Wednesday, 4 December 2013 HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 93

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were turning on broadband services in our part of

Western Sydney. He was quite happy to see that.

Maybe even go and see the member for Herbert, who

was getting NBN services turned on in his electorate

as well.

Woodcroft residents do not deserve this treatment.

When I was fighting for better connections for

Woodcroft residents, Malcolm Turnbull, speaking on

the problems that were being experienced by residents

I represent, said:

… the Government now cannot get its wholly-owned

taxpayer-funded monopoly to prioritize the neediest

areas …

This was referring to Woodcroft in a speech that he

made to a Young Liberals conference. He said:

That would be a travesty of social justice from a party

that so loudly claims to believe in it.

So it is good enough for him in opposition to hold up

Woodcroft and say that it is a travesty of social justice

for them to not get broadband. It is good enough for

him to come in here and pretend that he has some sort

of concern when he quotes his visits to Blacktown in

his speech on this bill. Yet the minute he gets into

government he makes a decision that rips off those

residents, and he does not have the guts or the decency

to ensure that those residents get better service.

Instead, he is a man with a plan. His plan is to just

conduct a review. It is a review that he says is very

objective but is being conducted by a mate with whom

he owns a yacht. I am sure that this review is going to

be very objective! Is a mate who he has had for some

time going to have the guts to stand up to Malcolm

Turnbull and tell him where he has gone wrong with

his broadband plan which, as I say, has already been

slammed for being too slow and too late and will result

in 30 per cent less revenue because it will be providing

slower speeds? Yet we are supposed to be expecting

to see some sort of fair dinkum outcome from this

strategic review that is already late. No doubt it will

be crunched through the minister's office. I would be

interested to see how the review that goes into the

minister's office looks after it leaves the office.

The fact of the matter is that they have to reach—

off the top of my head—nine million premises by

June 2016. I read an estimate that that means they

would have to pass 12,000 homes or establish 12,000

connections a day. It will be interesting to see if

the minister, the member for Wentworth, makes that

mark. But he should have the decency to stand up and

honour the commitments and the concerns that he put

when he visited Blacktown and spoke about Woodcroft

residents. They do not deserve to be dudded.

Debate adjourned.

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley


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