House debates

Tuesday, 19 June 2007



9:10 pm

Photo of Kim WilkieKim Wilkie (Swan, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The government has failed on all counts to deliver what it should have delivered 11 years ago to the Australian people. Now that the government is staring down the barrel of an election gun, it has announced a belated broadband plan. Will the Prime Minister ever come clean and admit to the Australian people that his inability to grasp the importance of broadband has led this country into a telecommunications abyss? Of course not.

This is simply a two-tiered, two-class mishmash of a plan he calls Australia Connected, which has already condemned people in regional and rural Australia to a distinctly second-class service delivered by a hopelessly outdated wireless system. I have my own name for this government’s plan. I call it ‘Fraudband’, because what is being proposed by the government is a complete con.

John Howard has again failed the Australian people. He has again tried to hoodwink them by promising a substandard broadband plan that will do little to improve current levels of telecommunications infrastructure in Australia, in particular in my electorate of Swan. By doing so, he has yet again demonstrated his lack of vision for our future with the continual bandaid, quick-fix solutions he needs to get him through to the next election. Mr Howard has had 10 years—

Photo of David HawkerDavid Hawker (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for Swan will refer to the Prime Minister by his title.

Photo of Kim WilkieKim Wilkie (Swan, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Prime Minister has had 10 years to fix broadband speed and access. During that time, all Australians—our children, our students, our businesses and our families—have gone backwards compared with the rest of the world. It is embarrassing to visit other parts of the world and see how advanced their broadband systems are compared with ours. Ours is nothing short of a disgrace. If Labor had not announced its comprehensive broadband plan for the future two months ago, you can bet your bottom dollar that this lot opposite would not even have come up with these rehashed, recycled and underdone measures that were announced yesterday.

The Prime Minister’s plan is a sham which is simply designed to safeguard against Liberal marginal seats falling to Labor at the upcoming federal election. The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts has been caught in the act already when she requested information packs which talk up the government’s broadband plan tailored specifically for marginal seats. Do not forget that this is also the minister who only recently said there was not even a problem with broadband speeds and access across Australia.

Last week I addressed the House on the issue of broadband and its importance to this country’s long-term economic growth and prosperity. Australia finds itself in an economic race with our global competitors which, if we lose, threatens to consign us to an economic black hole. As I have stated on numerous occasions, broadband will transport this country into the knowledge business and align us with global telecommunications giants like Europe, Japan and South Korea. Our future productivity relies upon a broadband infrastructure that will open new markets for Australian business and drive our economic productivity and growth into the future as our population ages. A world-class fibre-to-the-node future is the torch by which Australia’s economy will be guided.

I would like to remind the House of these glaring statistics with regard to our current broadband performance. Australia has a current OECD ranking of 17 out of 30 for the take-up of entry-level broadband. We are ranked 25th by the World Economic Forum on relative broadband speeds. Telstra rejects over 100,000 broadband applications a year simply because it cannot provide a connection. Even Telstra has pointed out the flaws in the government’s new plan, stating that the bulk of the taxpayer money was going not to the network extension but on duplicating infrastructure and services that are largely unavailable and using technology that is unproven.

I have people in my electorate of Swan who live no more than five minutes from the city but who cannot have access to broadband despite several applications to their internet service providers. These are hardworking people who are dependent upon broadband access to provide for their families while trying to sustain their own businesses and livelihoods. Yet they have been told again and again that they do not live in areas which can access broadband, in some cases despite living only 900 metres away from their local exchange.

These are the people the government has failed. My office continually receives complaints from constituents who are fed up with and tired of being bounced around from pillar to post with respect to this access. Labor are proud that we are contributing to the wellbeing and long-term economic prosperity of Australians everywhere. Only Labor’s broadband policy for the future will deliver us out of the telecommunications quagmire we have wallowed in for the past 10 years, and only Labor will deliver the broadband infrastructure required to drag us out of it. When the government announced their catch-up ‘fraudband’ plan, they exposed the fact that their only real intention is to be re-elected. It is not a long-term vision that serves our country. It is another hoax. It is an illusion designed specifically as a second-rate con job to hoodwink the Australian people yet again. Australia deserves better.