Speech by Ross Vasta MP to the House of Representatives on 31st May 2012
I rise today to bring to the attention of the House an issue that has bitterly frustrated the constituents of Bonner for far too long: the lack of broadband access, which greatly affects many suburbs in my electorate.
What makes this issue so frustrating is that my constituents who wanted so very much to believe that the Labor federal government was going to save them with their universal communication panacea, the NBN, will now not have broadband rollout commencing at anytime in the near future.
The NBN Co web site mapping of the scheduled rollout of the Brisbane metropolitan area looks more like the outline of Labor must-win seats at the next election rather than a plan for efficient and competent infrastructure construction works.
Let’s consider the evidence at hand regarding the Labor electorates which border Bonner. There is the electorate of Lilley, where 80 per cent coverage is scheduled to commence within one year. Griffith is scheduled to have 80 per cent coverage within three years. Moreton will have 75 per cent coverage within three years, and Rankin will have 90 per cent coverage within three years. Yet in the electorate of Bonner only a paltry 10 per cent coverage is scheduled to commence within three years, with the remaining 90 per cent having no schedule at all regarding the commencement of the rollout. Frustratingly, notorious broadband black spot areas like Wakerley, Manly West, Gumdale, Ransome and Mansfield are to miss out completely.
But as bad as this is, it could be worse. Bonner is in a 10 per cent better position than my neighbouring Liberal electorate of Bowman, which lacks any schedule at all. Numbers—or, in this case percentages—unfortunately speak loudly of the contempt that this Labor government holds for the voters of Bonner. The Labor government could not make their message clearer to the voters of Bonner. That message is: we do not care about you. Such blatant favouritism of Labor electorates flies in the face of the true application of democracy. What kind of government punishes entire electorates because they voted a certain way at the last federal election? This Labor government does, of course. But what else should we expect from a government who has botched the NBN process from tender to rollout? We see in the history of the NBN project that, from the moment the policy was dreamt up until now, it has been a case of one bungle to the next. Aside from the botched tender process, the cost blowouts of this project are extraordinary. This white elephant is now set to cost at least $50 billion—10 times the original budget.
This massive cost could have delivered so many other practical infrastructure upgrades across Australia and in our local area. The reality is that important road upgrades in the Bonner electorate, such as the Rickertt Road upgrade and the Eastern Busway—not to mention desperately needed upgrades to the Wynnum Hospital—are missing out on funding. Yet the government seems to have no limit on how much money it is prepared to sink into the NBN.
Added to this taxpayer burden, the NBN has no competition and, because of the extravagant spending so far on the project, consumers are set to pay higher prices for their internet. The cost of ADSL fell 69 per cent in the period between 2005 and 2010, yet the NBN has asked regulators for the right to lift prices on most services for the next five years. My office has been inundated with complaints from constituents who cannot access reliable and fast broadband. Suburbs such as Wakerley, Carindale, Tingalpa, Manly West, Mansfield and Hemmant, to name just a few, will be drastically affected by this missing vital infrastructure.
The NBN is too expensive, will hurt competition and will take too long to roll out. The coalition has a credible alternative to this white elephant that is less costly, will provide better services and can be delivered sooner than the NBN. This afternoon I call upon the Labor federal government to reconsider their timeframe for the NBN rollout and to make Bonner a top priority. The individuals, families, community groups and businesses in Bonner deserve nothing less.