The following is a speech made by the Federal Member for Bonner, Ross Vasta.
Tonight I rise to voice my strong support for the coalition’s policy objective that every Australian should be able to access fast, reliable and affordable broadband in their homes and places of work. Unfortunately, nothing has changed since my last speech about broadband in this chamber earlier this year.
The lack of reliability and access to broadband services continues to cause untold frustration, not to mention the loss of business dollars, for many Bonner residents, especially in the suburbs of Wakerley, Carindale, Wynnum Manly, Tingalpa, Gumdale, Ransome and Mackenzie. It is a disappointing fact that many of these residents continue not to be able to access broadband at all—let alone faster broadband. As such, it has been a relief for me to be able to give Bonner residents some clear direction and hope about the coalition’s NBN policy. I was immensely pleased to be able to tell them that under our policy regions and suburbs with the poorest existing service, or no service at all, will be given priority. The coalition’s policy bridges the gap between those who are on very fast broadband and those who have nothing. Put simply, this policy ticks all the boxes because is it offers flexibility and, above all, affordability. It gives people choice and it is fair.
I have been able to reassure many of the discouraged small-business owners in Bonner that the coalition’s policy is flexible, because if you are a business owner who needs speed you can get it. But, most importantly, I have been able to assure Bonner residents that under our policy if you are an average householder, a pensioner or student, you will not be paying for speed you do not need. It provides a choice—so for many of my constituents, as their needs change, they can still upgrade and make use of the latest technology. This policy is affordable, and I applaud the way our broadband policy will save consumers $300 per year by 2021. It will be cheaper for households regardless of whether or not they are in a city, regional or remote area—unlike Labor, whose plan will increase charges by an eye-watering 177 per cent by 2021. In today’s technologically driven society access to broadband is not so much a privilege as it is an everyday necessity. As Brendon from Carindale phrased it, ‘Access to internet is an essential service, like access to electricity.’ I could not agree more.
Let us take a moment to do some number crunching. The coalition’s NBN plan is projected to cost $29.5 billion and to be completed by 2019. On the other hand, Labor’s plan is expected to cost $44.1 billion and to be completed by 2021. The numbers and the dollars speak for themselves. Senator Conroy has openly admitted that his government’s $8 billion NBN rollout has gotten off to a discouraging start, with the scheme lucky to meet 15 per cent of its June 30 target. Modelling shows that only two per cent will be finished mid-way through this year. It is obvious that fiscal responsibility does not rank highly on this government’s list of priorities. But, as I continue to reassure Bonner residents, the coalition will continue to hold the Labor government accountable for the hard-earned taxpayer dollars that it wastes on its delayed NBN scheme.
Previously, I have advised this chamber that only 10 per cent of Bonner is scheduled for NBN in the next three years, with 90 per cent having no schedule at all for the foreseeable future. But now residents are concerned that they may never be included in the rollout, given the recent budget cuts to the scheme. The Prime Minister and Senator Conroy owe it to Bonner residents to provide them with an honest and open account of which suburbs will miss out. Instead, all we get is a veil of secrecy around this project with a lot of misleading statistics.
I take this opportunity to thank my good friend and colleague the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull on his outstanding performance as he has been able to brilliantly articulate the coalition’s policy. It has been critical for the coalition to get the balance right. Our policy gets it right and I stand strong with my colleagues in supporting our policy position.