House debates

Thursday, 20 September 2018


Wentworth By-Election

11:45 am

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

In a couple of weeks time, on 20 October, the people of Wentworth will have the opportunity to take part in a festival of democracy. I know the people of Wentworth are discerning voters. In this by-election they will make their choice based on issues that are important to them. And we know that some of the issues that are important to them relate to the communications portfolio, which I'll get to in a moment.

It's interesting that the people of Wentworth will get their chance to send a message to this divided and dysfunctional Morrison government for the treachery of the Liberal Party towards one of Wentworth's favourite sons, Malcolm Turnbull. They'll have their opportunity to have their say at the ballot box. Tim Murray, Labor's candidate, does not have the machine or the cash behind him that we know the Liberal candidate will have, but one thing that Tim Murray does have is his principles. He is someone who is not only hardworking, authentic and local but deeply concerned about two issues that I will raise today, which are the ABC and the National Broadband Network.

I say to the voters of Wentworth: here is your opportunity, in this by-election in Wentworth, to ask the Liberal candidate how he feels about the promise that was made by the then Abbott opposition that there would be no cuts to the ABC or SBS. Since then, the Liberals have cut around half a billion dollars from public broadcasting. They've launched what has been described as the biggest assault on the ABC's independence in decades. The now Prime Minister himself signed off on the latest $83.7 million in cuts to the ABC in this year's budget, and the now Prime Minister reappointed Senator Mitch Fifield, a card-carrying member of the IPA, an organisation that advocates privatising the ABC, Minister for Communications. Right now, the Liberals have three bills before the parliament to meddle with the ABC's independent functioning. They've got two inquiries into public broadcasting as part of a deal they did with One Nation. So I call on the voters of Wentworth to ask where the Liberal candidate stands on the ABC's funding and on the ideological attacks being perpetuated by this rotten Morrison government against our public broadcasters. Let's see what his answer is. Let's see how the Liberal candidate explains to the voters of Wentworth why the Liberals have made these cuts which—and I quote the ABC themselves:

… will make it very difficult for the ABC to meet its charter requirements and audience expectations.

I turn to the issue of the National Broadband Network in the seat of Wentworth. I know the dissatisfaction that many local residents have. Some of it has been quite well-publicised. For example, in February this year, when we found out that Malcolm Turnbull had not only superfast broadband but a standard of service that the rest of Australia could only dream of, we were enlightened by this report in The Australian:

Penny Street … described her quest to be connected to the NBN as "grossly inefficient" and a "nightmare".

Lady Street, whose sandstone home, designed by Walter Burley Griffin, overlooks Shark Island to the left and Mr Turnbull's rose-coloured mansion to the right, said she was "back to square one" after being visited by technicians "upwards of four times".

"It's frankly ridiculous," Lady Street said. "In the process of the NBN installation, our computers and telephones stopped working. We lost internet capability in our Indian and Cambodian offices because those computers are linked to my server here.

"We couldn't do any business in Asia. That's what went on for three days."

Let's see what the Liberal candidate in Wentworth thinks about this second-rate NBN. We know that large parts of Wentworth are still waiting for access, despite the fact that they were promised this project would be completed in 2016. If you live in Clovelly, you are still waiting. If you live in Double Bay, you are still waiting. If you're in Waverley, you're still waiting. These are areas that are predominantly HFC, and a pause had to be put on this technology at the end of last year because it is so bad. This project is now $22 billion over budget, and people in Wentworth are still waiting. The Liberal candidate should be made to explain why.