Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, at a time when struggling Australian families are scrutinising every dollar that they spend on bills, food, mortgages and rent, why is the government spending $43 billion of taxpayers’ money on the National Broadband Network without subjecting it to a proper cost-benefit analysis? If spending every dollar carefully is good enough for families, why isn’t it good enough for the government?
That is one of the reasons that I opposed the tax increase that the Leader of the Opposition wanted to put on everything that families buy at the last election. I thought that that was wrong. I do not know if the member thought it was right or wrong for the Leader of the Opposition to take a big tax on everything to the last election—a tax that would have flowed through to prices in Coles and Woolworths. I thought that that was the wrong thing to do, but she might want to express her own view about that, given her concern about the cost of living and families.
On the National Broadband Network, what I would say to the member who asked the question is that you do not want to fall for the spin coming from your frontbench about the National Broadband Network. I refer the member to the studies that have already been released—the McKinsey Implementation Study, for example—about the National Broadband Network. I refer her to the many business and academic studies that show the productivity, service delivery and innovation advantages of the NBN and the projected growth in our GDP and the increased prosperity for Australians as a result of this new technology.
I say to the member who asked the question that if she is really concerned about prices and families, she would be vitally concerned about the question of whether or not mum or dad has a job. The issue with the National Broadband Network is this: if we allow the technology of this country to continue to fall behind, then what will effectively happen is that we will export jobs to countries with better technology, such as Singapore and Korea. We would export jobs that would have supported working families and enabled them to pay their bills.
I was directly responding to the issue the member raised about cost of living and families, and I was directly responding on the productivity and competition advantages we need from this technology. I am not content to see this country export jobs to other countries. On the question of cost of living and the NBN, the member may be interested to know that, if we look at the costs of broadband among OECD countries, Australia is the fifth most expensive. That is happening now: real money coming out of families’ pockets, out of their pay packets, to pay for the fifth most expensive broadband. I want to see Australia get the advantages of cheaper broadband. I want to see Australians get the productivity advantages of that, the GDP advantages of that, the health service delivery advantages of that and the education delivery advantages of that. That is why the government is determined to build the National Broadband Network and not settle for the 20th plan coming from the opposition—every one of those plans a weeping failure.