House debates

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Protecting Services for Rural and Regional Australia into the Future) Bill 2007

Second Reading

7:16 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Opposition Business in the House) Share this | Hansard source

It actually says on one of the two pages of disclaimers:

Depictions of WiMAX and other wireless coverage on these maps do not take into account local topographical features.

That is absolutely extraordinary. Some people may have witnessed the Prime Minister at the launch of this policy, where he got out there with the businesspeople involved with this proposition and he said, ‘This is your spectrum.’ They said, ‘No, Prime Minister, it is not ours.’ He had so little knowledge. So stuck in the middle of the last century, so incapable of leading into the future was this Prime Minister that he did not even understand that the government’s broadband plan does not have its own spectrum to broadcast and that, indeed, it will be a shared spectrum. Those are just some of the problems that exist.

The radius from each site is the next major problem. It is a huge technical problem for those who seek access to broadband technology. WiMAX is only able, in theory, to transmit up to 20 kilometres in ideal circumstances—that is, in a laboratory. In practice, industry experts suggest that the coverage will be more like five to 10 kilometres. Compare this with optic fibres: you can actually connect Australia to the world. They can span thousands of kilometres—an extraordinary proposition.

Next is the issue of ownership and risk. Of course, there is no risk to the government in undertaking a joint venture to fund a nationwide fibre-to-the-node network, because broadband is essential. Broadband will bring enormous benefits to Australia. If anything, the Howard government’s plan is a risk to our economic prosperity because, unless we are prepared to invest in infrastructure, prepared to take on the challenges so that we can compete in the new, globally competitive economy—and telecommunications are an essential component of that—we simply will not have the economic growth and therefore the employment and living standards in coming years to which Australians aspire.


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