House debates

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Grievance Debate


6:30 pm

Photo of Steve GeorganasSteve Georganas (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It gives me great pleasure to be here, to stand up and speak in the grievance debate. It gives us the opportunity to talk about infrastructure and other things that are happening within our electorates—or maybe not happening within our electorates.

One of the issues I want to raise tonight in the grievance debate is the cost of the second-rate NBN that is currently being rolled out. Through the many people who have contacted me within my electorate, my constituents, we know that the Prime Minister has made an absolute mess of the NBN. The cost of this second-rate NBN has nearly doubled. The time it will take to build has more than doubled. The choice of technology will not provide Australians with a futureproofed 21st century broadband network. We know that in 2013 the Prime Minister, who was the then Minister for Communications, labelled his NBN as 'fast, affordable and sooner'. He was wrong on the cost, he was wrong on the timing and he was certainly wrong on the technology.

The PM promised he could build a second-rate copper NBN for $29.5 billion, but it is now costing us up to $54 billion. This means the Prime Minister's NBN has blown out by $24.5 billion. The PM promised all Australians they would have access to minimum speeds on the NBN by this year. That timing has also blown out to 2020. Under this PM's second-rate NBN, Australians are not getting the NBN that they need or deserve to compete with the rest of the world and the fast-growing technology of our neighbouring countries. All the PM is offering Australians is a slower, second-rate copper NBN.

This government has said yes to copper and no to fibre. There are many problems that using this second-rate model creates. For example, the NBN has advised service providers that phone services cannot be guaranteed to work during a power outage over the NBN. This has implications for individuals who rely on personal medical alarms connected to their phone line to notify family and/or emergency services. We have had people who have contacted us, from providers of medical alarms to people who require the medical alarms. There are two types of medical alarm services. One type is called the monitored alarm. This system dials out to a human operator, who can then direct the call to a family member or emergency service. The other type of alarm is the nonmonitored alarm. I understand that this uses automatic dialling technology to dial out to family members, and, when they are not available, it automatically dials the emergency services.

These consumers are now finding themselves in a very difficult situation, in a very difficult position, as they become aware that these services are basically becoming obsolete. They may not work over the copper based NBN. What has come to light is that the NBN has set up a subsidy scheme to assist users of monitored alarms to migrate their alarms to mobile based services; however, users of nonmonitored alarms have been excluded from accessing the subsidy.

People often use a nonmonitored alarm because it is more affordable and cheaper compared to a monitored service, which may cost an extra $30 per month. And when you are talking an extra $30 per month for a pensioner—because they are usually the people who have these emergency monitored alarms. If something goes wrong, they want to be connected to the emergency services, to their families et cetera. A lot of this was raised on the Leon Byner program early last week. Listeners with this issue were calling in. We had a few of them referred to my office. Many people are finding themselves in that situation.

We have absolutely no transparency of the role the government has played in excluding users of non-monitored alarms. I know there were some questions asked in estimates today. Yet we have no answers. The department is blaming the NBN; the NBN are wiping their hands of it; and the providers of the monitored alarms are wiping their hands of it. We have been trying to seek some clarity with the inquiries that we have had. Of course today in estimates the minister refused to take any responsibility. I have had a number of inquiries from people in my electorate about whether their medical alarms are going to work with the new network. No-one can give them an answer. Everyone is wiping their hands of it. This is causing real concern amongst many pensioners within my electorate.

When constituents have inquired about the issue they were given a glossy brochure by NBN Co, which tells them two things: it could impact on their medical alarm and they should check with their provider. This is just not good enough. On something that could be the difference between life and death people need as much information and explanation as possible. They need to be able to make decisions around this because it is an extremely serious issue, particularly for elderly and vulnerable people.

We are going to continue to seek greater transparency from the government on this issue. We understand that broadband creates jobs for Australians but we want to provide Australians with the opportunity to have access and be able to compete with overseas markets and drive innovation. The PM talks big about the innovation boom, but when it comes to the detail and delivering real results the government clearly falls short. It is not just in the NBN area where the government has fallen short; infrastructure funding, for example, has been slashed by 35 per cent.

We cannot talk about a growing economy with jobs growth without funding infrastructure properly. For example, in my electorate there has been $92 million cut from one project. Of course cuts have been made to a multitude of projects around the country, but I am most concerned about the Adelaide South Road upgrade, which cuts through my electorate of Hindmarsh. To be specific, in the 2014 forward estimates there was $92 million extra for the north-south corridor. In the 2015-16 budget there is $92 million less. In addition, in 2014 we had $232 million announced for the Goodwood-Torrens project. Again in the 2015-16 budget this investment has disappeared.

How can this government profess to be for jobs and for growth when all they do is pretend to invest in infrastructure? There is $92 million less in the 2015-16 budget, for example. How many jobs and apprenticeships would that create? The infrastructure would have been better. This goes to the heart of what infrastructure is all about. It is about providing good projects for the community and also injecting money into the economy, creating jobs and having our kids who want to learn trades do apprenticeships and a whole range of things.

Hindmarsh has a number of highly congested roads that need urgent attention, including Marion Road, Brighton Road, the Oaklands crossing and West Beach Road in West Beach. West Beach Road was knocked back from getting Roads to Recovery funding last year, even though it has been given top priority from the two local councils that cover that road—the West Torrens council and the City of Charles Sturt. This is a popular, growing beachside area with many leisure and recreational activities for the people of Adelaide. The traffic on the weekends, especially in the summer, is bumper to bumper on West Beach Road. West Beach Road residents are up in arms. Something needs to be done to alleviate this problem. This is a vital project.

Adelaide Shores is expanding and creating activity down there and there is a boat harbour down the road. As I said, if you were to go down there pretty well any day of the week, but especially on weekends, you would know that it is a narrow road which was built many years ago to service the residents, but the whole area has absolutely changed. If there is one particular project that needs urgent attention, it is the upgrade of West Beach Road, which would alleviate some of the problems for the residents living on that road. It is a vital project because it improves services for everyone using the road, not just for the residents and people who visit the beach and use the leisure services on the weekend. It also creates jobs—I go back to that. The more infrastructure we have, the more jobs we create, the more apprentices we have and the more economic activity there is.

These are important issues for the electorate of Hindmarsh but also for Australia. During the global financial crisis, when we were in government, we were able to create thousands of jobs through infrastructure projects and through the money that we provided. I urge the government to take heed of some of the things that I have raised tonight.