Monday, 29 February 2016
Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Access Regime and NBN Companies) Bill 2015; Second Reading
I am moved by the comments from the member for Throsby regarding the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Access Regime and NBN Companies) Bill 2015. One would think he is living in a parallel universe where he has somehow reached the conclusion that if Labor had survived the last election then all the problems with the NBN in Australia would be solved—that everybody in Australia would be wired up with fibre to the premises. In fact, we know that it would have been another 10 years at least before the NBN reached that far. The member nitpicks around the edges when in fact I can report that in South Australia at the time of the last election the company that was engaged to conduct the rollout had collapsed, as had the same provider in Western Australia. There was no action happening on the ground, because it had collapsed. That was the story of the whole NBN under Labor, and I cannot just stand here and not respond to those misleading comments from the member for Throsby.
Of course, telecommunications is one of the fastest-moving technologies in the world, and that is why any platform that is designed needs to be flexible, to be fast moving and to allow businesses in Australia to be the same. That is why the government asked for a report from the Vertigan panel to suggest changes to legislation that will enable sensible and flexible use of the NBN platform as it is unrolled around Australia. This legislation addresses some of the issues that the Vertigan panel reported on. For instance, it allows users of the broadband network to use in-building cabling that already exists. That makes sense—we do not want to rebuild the universe; we want to use the infrastructure that is there—and that will be provided for. It also allows for flexibility in conducting pilots and trials. It allows companies to have some protection for their IP as they try to investigate new ways of using the NBN platform. In essence, this is good legislation that allows for the proper use of the new NBN platform.
It is also an opportunity to talk about exactly what is happening in the electorate of Grey and how this rollout is being received. I am very pleased to report that it really is picking up a lot of speed. We are getting a lot of interest and people are getting very excited when they sign on to the new network. Grey is one of the electorates in Australia that is least-well served by the old system. Quite a number of my electors—in fact, we are down to about 900 now, but there were many more at one stage—were on the satellite systems, which became overloaded. I will not go into the detail of why that was but, once again, that was mishandling by the previous minister, Senator Conroy. Too many places were allocated under the available space for the satellites.
In fact, I was one of those users. It got to the point of being pretty much unusable. I managed, for my own usage, to put a 40-foot antenna on top of my house to receive a mobile phone signal, which has been used as a platform, through a smart aerial within my premises, for running my internet access. It is not perfect, but it should get me through to the opening up of the NBN satellite. I often say of the satellite that, perhaps, this was one area—or maybe even the only area—that the previous minister, Senator Conroy, got right in the rollout of the NBN platform. He commissioned two new, state-of-the-art satellites. They are the best in the world; they are the newest and one is in orbit now and being tested for use in Melbourne, I understand. We expect that to start taking on customers around the end of April.
There has been a lot of scuttlebutt out there from pseudo-experts talking about how inadequate the satellite service will be. This is exactly the same satellite service that the Labor government, and the Labor NBN, was going to introduce—and on, basically, the same time frame. There is not a cigarette paper width of difference between those two policies. There has been a lot of badmouthing around the satellite service, because of the ineptitude of the overloading of the old satellite service, the Interim Satellite Service. People believe that satellites are no good. In fact, it will be a very good service, with a 25-megabits-per-second download speed. That will be a very substantial service for rural Australia.
Even now, in my electorate, I am dealing with, once again, these pseudo-experts who say that not everyone will be able to get the NBN. But that is what the satellite is there for: to reach into the parts of Australia that are unable to be serviced by other technologies. If you live in a black spot, if you live in a place that, for some reason, cannot pick up the fixed wireless, or if you live in a place that does not have the fibre-to-the-premises or fibre-to-the-node networks, you will be able to log onto the satellite. There will be plenty of capacity and it will be a very good service.
Importantly, it will allow some sectors of my community that have been struggling for some time to be serviced in a very good way. The families of School of the Air students across outback South Australia are so over the current service. Their main platform of delivery is a computer that drops out on a regular basis, so they have to go through the whole process of logging on again and loading up the computer. Sometimes they spend more time trying to get connectivity than they do receiving the lessons over this network. It is pretty hard to get kids in the classroom anyhow, but it is very hard for parents and those who have responsibility for keeping the kids in the classroom through that process. They are beside themselves waiting for those times, in April, when the satellite will begin to switch on. I have urged nbn co and the minister to make sure that hooking up these people is a priority.
Another community that I feel I must speak about is the township of Elliston, which is on what we call the west coast of South Australia or the western coast of Eyre Peninsula. Currently, the town is served by a radio link, which delivers all of the technology into the community—apart from those still on the Interim Satellite Service. The radio link provides the fixed line service, the mobile phone service and, for many, the internet service. We have the local council to a point where their technology is totally superseded by the world that surrounds them, and yet they cannot install new technology because the platform is, simply, not strong enough. Once again, I have urged the minister and nbn co to look favourably upon accelerating a township like Ellison, once the satellite technology is available, so they can join the rest of the 21st century and get on with the job.
In the last eight months or so, we have commissioned 28 fixed wireless services across Grey. I will read them out because it is a bit interesting, as it is a very good spread: Arno Bay; Balgowan, down on York Penninsula; Blyth; Booleroo; Brinkworth; Bungama; Bute; Cleve; Coobowie; Corny Point; Crystal Brook; Curramulka; Gladstone; Hardwicke Bay; Kadina; Laura; Louth Bay; Melrose; Moonta; Napperby; Port Neill; Port Rickaby; Point Turton; Port Victoria; Redhill; Warooka; Winter Hill and Yorketown. That is a good list. It is impressive.
We have fixed wireless tower sites under construction at Ceduna, Coffin Bay, Cummins, Edithburgh, Haslam, Marion Bay, North Shields, Orroroo, Peralah, Peterborough North, Port Clinton, Port Germein, Port Lincoln South, Pine Point, Price, Smoky Bay, Streaky Bay, Wangary, Wanilla, Wirrabara and Wool Bay. I am probably the only person in this House to pronounce all those names correctly. There you go—it is always one of those amusing things, when you hear the radio commentator try and list local names. I can tell you that all of those people who have fixed wireless now are giving me fabulous reports. They are very impressed with the technology. They are very happy. We just have to get it to the rest of them.