Thursday, 28 August 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Communications. Will the minister inform the House of the findings of the recent cost-benefit analysis about providing communications to rural and regional Australia? What is the government's commitment to making sure all Australians have access to superfast broadband?
I thank the honourable member for his question. It was only a little while ago that we were discussing broadband in rural Australia with young Wendy Tshuma and her classmates from the Son Centre Christian School in Swan Hill who the honourable member introduced me to and asked me about broadband. The cost-benefit analysis considered the cost of providing very superfast broadband to rural and regional Australia. It showed that the net economic benefits of an unsubsidised rollout, which would just be done on commercial grounds without any government subsidy, was $24 billion, but that the government's plan, the mixed technology model, was $18 billion. Of course, the previous Labor government's plan would have had a net benefit of less than $2 billion, which is why our approach is nine times as beneficial to the Australian economy as Labor's. But the difference between the $24 billion net benefit on an unsubsidised model and $18 billion for this government's model is $6 billion. Most of that is taken up with the subsidy that goes to rural and regional telecommunications, essentially the satellite and the fixed wireless networks.
The study demonstrated that the fixed wireless and satellite services, which will cover the last seven per cent, will cost nearly $5 billion, with benefits of about 10 per cent of that. So that is a substantial net cost to the community. But it is absolutely vital that we make that investment. If investment in infrastructure in rural and regional Australia was only dictated by economic cost then the bitumen would stop at the end of the cities, the post office would not deliver. So it is vital that we provide those services. Young Wendy Tshuma has as good an internet connection in Swan Hill as her cousins in Melbourne or Sydney.
Mr Champion interjecting—
This side of politics are absolutely committed to the bush. We have a track record. We represent most of regional and rural Australia; you cannot say the same thing about the Labor Party. Not only did the Labor Party fail to do anything about mobile services in six years; but due to their incompetence, if there had been no change to policy, the NBN would have been unable to service 200,000 premises in rural and regional Australia—80,000 of those premises were in areas where the Labor government in their supreme incompetence did not even own the spectrum; they could not even do it. So neglectful of rural Australia—the bitumen does not end at the end of the cities, but the Labor Party's interest in the bush certainly does.