Page 3391 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 23 September 2015
Reflecting on the comments that Jason Clare, the shadow minister for communications, made at the better broadband forum that Andrew Leigh and I held with him, some participants asked him what he really thought the new Prime Minister’s take on the NBN was. As others have noted, and as I did as well, Malcolm Turnbull was probably originally given the task of destroying the NBN. He rescued it from the ashes. Jason Clare’s view was interesting in that Malcolm Turnbull came to this as a businessman. His approach to this asset was as a businessman, to sweat the asset—not to recognise this as a major infrastructure investment program but rather as a private sector asset, and in the private sector you probably want to sweat your asset to get the most out of it. Is that the approach that we want on major nation-building infrastructure? I do not think so. I do not think that is what the community want either.
Jason Clare also made a very interesting observation, as Mr Doszpot noted, that the type of NBN you get will be dependent on where you live. What does that mean for people across Canberra? What does that mean for our regions across Australia? Certainly in previous federal governments regional representatives have said loud and clear that regions need this essential investment in their infrastructure. If you are in a remote or regional area it may absolutely transform your ability to run your business, engage in education and connect with people across the country and around the world.
One of the alarming propositions that Jason Clare put to the meeting was this: what happens once the federal government realise that they have significantly underinvested in fibre to the node infrastructure? What happens when the copper dies? Federal Labor is concerned about what that means. As Mr Gentleman noted, the analogy is: jump on your pushbike and ride from the node to the home. What happens when that copper dies? Will the federal government really go in through NBN and rip up old copper and replace it with new copper? If we think about every single home that is going to be connected to the NBN under the federal Liberal government’s program, they will still have old-fashioned copper from the node to their home. At some point that copper will outlive itself. What is it going to be replaced with?
I would also make a couple of comments around cost blowouts. A number of members mentioned that the blowouts in this NBN program by the federal Liberal government sit alongside the death by a thousand cuts, as Dr Bourke put it. In this city alone, we know that the federal government has cut funding to NICTA. We welcome the fact that they will be transferred and find a new home in CSIRO, but it does not get away from the fact that NICTA funding should not have been cut in the first place.
In commenting on this debate I would like to mention the previous debate where opposition members suggested that government members moving motions or representing their community should just be done by walking down the corridor and speaking to a minister. That fundamentally misrepresents what I believe our job is. I worry about what it means and what they think their job is. Is it that you should just walk down the corridor? Of course we will do that. We will do that every day. We will talk to our colleagues on this side of the chamber. But we do not believe that to get things done we simply walk down the corridor. We talk to our community, we debate issues in the Assembly and we let people know about them in various ways. I am alarmed that twice this morning the opposition has seen fit to say that government members should not be talking in this chamber and should not be talking to their community about the issues that matter to them.