I oppose the National Broadband Network Financial Transparency Bill 2010 that is being put forward. I want to start by demonstrating problems that are being experienced in Chifley directly by small businesses. I was at the Woodcroft Lakes Festival in late September and I was approached by a franchise partner of a Gloria Jean’s outlet that works out of Woodcroft. He has been attempting to get a service that is available to him in his other outlets where he uses web technology to install cameras to monitor workflows and customer flows. From a security perspective he is able to access the operation of web cameras in their cafes. He tried to do the same thing in Woodcroft and was told, ‘Currently we are unable to activate the ADSL connection on your number as we have been advised by Telstra that the transmission loss on your nominated phone line is too high. This situation occurs when Telstra detects the possibility of a loss of data when the service is installed or the chosen location of your ADSL connection is too far from the exchange.’
This problem relates to Woodcroft’s distance in Western Sydney from the Blacktown exchange. In Woodcroft people are basically reliant on RIM technology to get access to ADSL. That technology is overwhelmed by the number of customers present. People have to wait for customers to leave to get access. I get constant complaints from people who are unable to access ADSL from Woodcroft. This is not new. I also raised this same problem in 2004 in relation to Glenwood and I was told by both Telstra and the former government that there was no problem, though consumers were screaming. Customers were saying that there was definitely a problem and they could not get access. This problem did not arise overnight; it has built up over time. At its heart, this problem reflects a regulatory stalemate that has existed for years. Once Telstra was sold off by the coalition, Telstra’s priority was about keeping shareholders happy by giving them great returns. Whenever Telstra considered investment in its network, it had to consider its return to shareholders and ultimately what it would be able to secure via its prices.
Telstra has always experienced its own battles with the ACCC, who had reservations about consumer impacts, concerns about Telstra levering off its market power and other concerns about lack of access to the network by its competitors. What did we have? We had a stand-off where the customer lost out. The problem is that when the coalition were in government they tried numerous times to fix it and were unable to. Customers lost out then, and now the coalition are offering further delay. Consumers were not able to get access to a strong network during the coalition’s period in office and they are being frustrated yet again by the coalition delaying things. I have to say I give the coalition points for being consistent. They have been unable to solve the problem themselves. They delayed getting an answer for people and now they are attempting to delay the government with the introduction of a variety of measures to frustrate the implementation and the rollout of the NBN.
We never saw a cost-benefit analysis when they proposed the Adelaide-Darwin railway, the privatisation of Telstra in the first place, Malcolm Turnbull’s $10 billion water plan or the OPEL regional broadband plan. We never saw a cost-benefit analysis then, but that is what they are suggesting now. The other thing that gets me is that they are offering a sub-par alternative in regard to the technology, offering HFC access or wireless at best for people who are trying to get access to broadband. They are proposing a sub-par option. With the rollout of the NBN, we will be able to get access to modern technology—especially in Chifley if the rollout goes ahead. Instead, we see an elitist option from the coalition. If you are in the inner city, you have access to broadband at the moment—that is fine. But if you do not have access to it, the best you will get out of the coalition is a wireless option that is substandard and reflects yet again their disregard for infrastructure rollout in Western Sydney. This bill is nothing short of a delay and a frustration for people in suburban areas to get access to modern technology. This bill should be opposed.