Matter of Public Importance – NBN
5 June 2013
I want to make some very brief comments in contributing to this debate. The first is the very title of this matter of public importance that is being brought towards the House, that being the issue of a threat. As the member for Lyne so rightly pointed out, there is indeed a threat in this parliament. There is a threat to high-speed broadband on an equitable, accessible and ubiquitous level. The threat is any plan other than something that delivers absolute equivalence in wholesale pricing to ensure that we eliminate the digital divide between regional and metropolitan areas and outer metropolitan areas.
What I have heard here today from those opposite, including the member for Wentworth, have been the same old arguments to put Labor’s NBN down, to try and promote the very aptly named fraudband policy, the uncosted policy that they released that was universally lampooned. I know this does strike a very raw nerve for the member for Wentworth because prior to their long-awaited plan 73 per cent prior supported Labor’s NBN and, after the coalition plan was released, that went up to 78 per cent. So it is very clear that this does strike a very raw nerve with those opposite.
Some of those who have come into this debate here today and over the last few days have suddenly become experts on asbestos. No-one needs to tell me about asbestos and how harmful it is, because, as the AMWU has well documented, two out of three homes in Australia built between World War II and the early 1980s still contain asbestos. There is what is called the asbestos belt around metropolitan Sydney, the suburbs in which asbestos is rife in dwellings. The top three on that list are actually in my electorate and include the suburb in which I was born and where my family home, which probably does contain asbestos, still is. Those suburbs are Seven Hills, Lalor Park and Blacktown.
No-one needs to tell me about the importance of making sure that this material is properly handled and disposed of. When you go around those suburbs, and many of the other suburbs in what is known as the asbestos belt, you see a lot of knockdown rebuilds happening, a lot of fences up, a lot of asbestos removal taking place. So the importance of safe asbestos handling practices is very well-known to people of my community and not lost on me.
People have come here in this debate in the last few days suddenly bemoaning the issue of asbestos and things we need to do to protect people. Where were they, particularly those from New South Wales, when the New South Wales Liberal state government recently slashed workers compensation laws, resulting in the prospect of asbestos victims losing access to their rightful workers compensation entitlements in New South Wales? I find it absolutely extraordinary that those people come in here and start talking about their commitment to asbestos clearance.
I probably could not have put it better than Bernard Keane, just reading some of his comments from today about the performance of the member for Wentworth. I think the member for Lyne put it very succinctly when he talked about this being an attempt to promote a policy of the opposition which is actually failing and a policy from Labor which is actually very popular in the community. I think Bernard Keane took the words out of my mouth, listening to the member for Wentworth yesterday in particular. He wrote:
Alas, the Turnbull of Godwin Grech fame, rather than Spycatcher fame, showed up …
Well, Turnbull, perhaps humming Janet Jackson’s What Have You Done for Me Lately, demanded to know what else Shorten had done, beyond stray outside his own responsibilities to pursue the issue.
Then we reached the point in question time yesterday where the opposition reached to the old faithful of turn back the boats.
I find it absolutely extraordinary also that the member for Wentworth should come in here and again talk about and out down the National Broadband Network and say that it is not meeting its targets. As could be very clearly seen at the end of May, NBN Co. is on track to beat its revised June rollouts. It is on track to pass between 171,836 and 185,808 premises with fibre by the end of June, far exceeding the target that is set.
On the issue of the opposition claiming Labor’s NBN is going to cost $90 billion, this figure somehow appeared on the day fraudband was released. Shortly after that we had an NBN public hearing where questions were put directly to NBN Co. specifically asking—and the chairman knows that very well—(a) how could you possibly come up with this $90 billion figure with no credibility to that figure whatsoever and (b) if you were to properly cost an alternative proposal, what are all the other things you would have to do such as the operation and maintenance of the pits and the ducts and so forth?
I will end by saying the member for Lyne very rightly points out that, if you look at this fraudband document where the opposition is saying publicly that the risk is far diminished under their policy, it is exactly the same risk and same pits. So we will not have any of this nonsense coming from the opposition. They have no credibility on this issue whatsoever.