Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010
Consideration in Detail
I rise to respond to the comments of the member for Wentworth, even though he did not actually address in that contribution the reasons why he has moved these particular unnecessary amendments. But he has raised some comments that do need a response from the government. He speaks about competition and competition being excluded from the National Broadband Network. Of course, what he ignores is the fact that the NBN is about the wholesale market and the competition will be in the retail sector. We are already seeing that competition in Tasmania as the NBN is being rolled out. It is a bit like the situation in my portfolio, under which the ARTC owns the tracks on which the trains travel. The trains are owned by different corporate sectors. That is where the competition comes in; that is where the market operates. Unless you have the track—in this case, the fibre-optic network to the home—the foundations, the backbone, you simply will not be able to move forward in a way which will take Australia into the 21st century.
The opposition had 18 plans when they were in government. They have had two plans since. So we have 20 plans, and when it all boils down it comes down to ‘leave it to the market and it will sort itself out’. The market did not sort it out and we have continued to go backwards when comparing our competitive advantage with that of our neighbours, whether it be Korea or Japan or Hong Kong—or New Zealand, for that matter. We have continued to go backwards when it comes to broadband speeds on what is the most important single piece of infrastructure for the 21st century.
The member for Wentworth speaks about turning back the clock. We are actually taking the courageous decision to move forward into the 21st century. That is why we are so committed to the National Broadband Network. That is why structural separation needs to occur through this legislation. The member for Wentworth says that the opposition support structural separation. Why didn’t they do it when they privatised Telstra? That is when it should have happened. That would have been the appropriate mechanism, and the member for Wentworth knows that that is the case, knows that that was the right thing to do. I appreciate that he agrees with the fact that that is an appropriate policy mechanism. We have not talked about it. This legislation is actually doing it.
I agree with the member for New England: this is absolutely vital, historic legislation before this parliament. It is vital because it forms the foundation stone of our commitment to deliver fast, high-speed broadband to Australians wherever they live—whether it be in cities in electorates such as Wentworth or Grayndler, or whether it be in Armidale or Kalgoorlie. People in those places should have the same access as people in Rose Bay and Marrickville. That is what the National Broadband Network is about—an important reform.
The member for Wentworth says it is not about regions and cities. He has discovered class and the fact that incomes make a difference. Of course incomes make a difference in terms of access to computers, access to new technology and access to services. Of course that is the case. But the member’s point could apply to any purchase of services or infrastructure in the home. The fact is that the wealthier you are the more access you have. As members of parliament we are able to deliver it for ourselves and our families much more so than many people who live in our electorates. This is historic legislation that is about putting in place our commitment. It is about time the opposition got on board with the program, because they know that this is vital infrastructure for the 21st century.
That the amendments (Mr Turnbull’s) be agreed to.