House debates

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Questions without Notice


2:19 pm

Photo of Michelle RowlandMichelle Rowland (Greenway, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Why is restructuring the telecommunications sector important in delivering the National Broadband Network so that every Australian business and household can get the benefits of superfast broadband?

Photo of Julia GillardJulia Gillard (Lalor, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Greenway for her question and note her passion, enthusiasm and expertise when it comes to the question of the National Broadband Network. I think the member for Greenway is going to be a bit surprised, as will others in this House, when I quote the following statement made this morning by the Leader of the Opposition. He said:

Let me just make these very important points. The National Broadband Network is not an economic reform …

Photo of Tony AbbottTony Abbott (Warringah, Liberal Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Abbott interjecting

Photo of Julia GillardJulia Gillard (Lalor, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

The Leader of the Opposition is full of compliments for his own work! On this side of the House and, to be fair to the crossbenchers, I believe far more broadly it is understood that the National Broadband Network and restructuring of telecommunications in this country is a classic piece of microeconomic reform. It is about better competition. Of course, in this country, we have pursued competition policy—and much of this used to be bipartisan politics before the Leader of the Opposition—as a microeconomic reform, and restructuring telecommunications is about competition. It is about creating a transparent regulatory framework that delivers quality, choice and competitiveness—a classic piece of microeconomic reform. It is about creating a marketplace where entrants do not face prohibitive barriers so that you can have more people coming in, offering more diversified products and putting downwards pressure on prices. This is what the government is committed to. We understand that it is a microeconomic reform. But, on the other side, there appears to be emerging a variety of views. We have the Leader of the Opposition saying, ‘This isn’t a piece of economic reform.’ The opposition went to the last election actually saying that. Its policy document said:

The Coalition will cancel Labor’s reckless and expensive National Broadband Network.

Then the Leader of the Opposition tasked the member for Wentworth with demolishing the National Broadband Network. But the member for Wentworth, when he was asked about these things, said on the question of whether or not he was going to demolish the NBN, ‘Look, my interest is not in bringing down the NBN or in demolishing the NBN.’ It appears that the member for Wentworth is leading the opposition into a new position where it is not going to oppose the structural separation of Telstra, even though that has been coalition policy for some time. Unfortunately, whilst that move to support structural separation is welcome news, it is not joined with an understanding about how structural separation relates to the National Broadband Network. Apparently, the new coalition policy—I think it is their 19th or their 20th—on broadband is to create a new wholesale company codenamed Can Co. Actually I think it should be ‘Slow Co.’ because the only thing it is going to do is deliver less speed, less competition, less choice and less innovation to Australians. We are determined to deliver the National Broadband Network and, once again, we say to the Leader of the Opposition, ‘Support this economic reform.’ (Time expired)