House debates

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Matters of Public Importance


4:03 pm

Photo of James StevensJames Stevens (Sturt, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the matter of public importance. I would like to start by putting on record congratulations to everyone at the NBN for what they have been able to do in the last 20 months, in particular, since the coronavirus pandemic commenced, with the enormous amount of pressure that that put on internet connections throughout their network across the country. Of course, we all know and understand what happened early on in the pandemic and how people in many cases suddenly had to work from home. This put an enormous amount of pressure on the network. We made some very important decisions as a government to support capacity in the network, and I commend Minister Fletcher for what he did then and also for more recent announcements that he's made regarding the National Broadband Network.

Congratulations to everyone at the NBN, because that system could never have been put under more pressure in such an unpredictable way. As much as we make sure in our critical infrastructure that we're preparing for absolutely anything, the way in which the system stood up to those pressures goes to show not only that they were indeed prepared for a once-in-100-year event like that pandemic but that the system is very agile and nimble and can make changes rapidly. There are nearly, I think, 12 million customers with access to the NBN now. Of course, representing one of 151 electorates like other members here, I've got tens of thousands in my own electorate. It's a thrill to visit businesses, in particular, that are using the NBN in ways that put them in a globally competitive space. Creative industries is a good example. I've got the South Australian Film Corporation in my electorate but lots of other businesses that work in film, in post-production, visual effects et cetera, whose internet connection is very important. A city like Adelaide has a great competitive advantage because it sits nicely on a time zone against the western United States—so, Hollywood—and Europe, and that puts businesses in my electorate in a position to work on projects with other businesses in Los Angeles, London, Paris and Vancouver. They can effectively be doing projects where they're collaborating, where at 9 am, Adelaide time, the team in Adelaide are working on a particular part of a post-production visual effects project and at five o'clock they upload their work of the last eight hours. The team in London pick that up, keep working on the same scene for the next eight hours and then hand that over to someone in Vancouver or Los Angeles, and the cycle continues. That's all facilitated by having a broadband internet system that allows them to collaborate and deal with enormous packets of data in the efficient way this system provides to us.

We have, of course, had to do an enormous clean-up job from what we were left with from Labor after six years. I think they got around 51,000 customers onto the NBN in six years. I suppose it's not, in hindsight, a surprise that Labor could be so slow in rolling it out—an idea that the member for Mackellar has just outlined very eloquently. It probably didn't have as much thought and wasn't robust a concept as it should have been when you're talking about what is now tens of billions of dollars of taxpayers' funds. What's even worse is not the mess that was left to us after they had six years to get 51,000 homes on the NBN but the fact that, if they'd kept going and we hadn't been elected and taken over responsibility for deploying the NBN, it still wouldn't be finished by now. The KordaMentha process showed that the NBN under Labor would probably have completed rollout by 30 June 2024. Where would we have been in the pandemic with an incomplete national broadband network? Where would all those businesses have been—those that rely on that network, that infrastructure, that technology, which we fixed, we enhanced and we finished? We got the job done. I shudder to think how businesses would have survived over the last 20 months if they'd had the half-finished system that Labor continued to slowly roll out and deploy. So we're very lucky that the people of Australia made the right decision, threw Labor out in 2013 and voted in support of our approach to the NBN, which delivered a finished system that we continue to invest in and enhance into the future.


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