Senate debates

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Questions without Notice

Broadband

2:36 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Regional Development and Minister for Regional Communications, Senator Nash. Can the minister update the Senate on recent changes made to the Sky Muster service to help deliver world-leading internet services to all Australians?

Photo of Fiona NashFiona Nash (NSW, National Party, Deputy Leader of the Nationals) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator McKenzie for her question and for the tremendous work that she does for regional Victoria. Reliable and affordable broadband is absolutely critical to the success of Australia's regions. Having quality broadband in rural, regional and remote Australia creates jobs and careers. It helps keep our young people from moving away to the cities. Reliable, effective and affordable communications will help drive future regional economies, which already make such a huge contribution to our nation.

NBN Co's two Sky Muster satellites are providing consumers with unprecedented coverage and capacity in regional Australia. Just recently, I was pleased to join with NBN Co to announce improvements to the performance of Sky Muster satellites. Maximum monthly data limits have now been doubled. What we are now seeing is that, for the first time, end users are able to purchase, at a reasonable cost, plans offering 200 gigabytes of peak-time data per month and another 100 gigabytes off peak. Average Australian monthly download is 130 gigabytes, so we're offering rural and remote Australians much more than the average person uses. This means that a farmer can watch YouTube videos on how to fix her tractor. Uni students home during holidays can study hard and stay in contact with friends without using up the entire monthly limit.

There are 80,000 end users on the Sky Muster service, and I'm pleased to see more joining every week. And I am very proud to be part of this coalition government, which is delivering world-leading internet by 2020 whether you live in the mountains, in the outback or on a remote island.

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator McKenzie on a supplementary question.

2:38 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Can the minister advise how these changes have been received by end users?

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting

2:39 pm

Photo of Fiona NashFiona Nash (NSW, National Party, Deputy Leader of the Nationals) Share this | | Hansard source

And I was delighted to be able to make this announcement with my colleague the member for Groom, John McVeigh, in Toowoomba, where people were delighted with the improvements. If those on the other side ever got out to regional Australia, they might know how pleased people are with their internet services.

The NFF CEO, Tony Mahar, said: 'When the data limit increase was announced, we were delighted. This is a huge step forward.' Internet user Ali Briggs from Condamine in Queensland said:

The data increase is a game-changer for us … I will be able to continue to work remotely from home; our children will be able to access online homework tasks; we can read cattle market reports, online news; do online banking …

Kristy Sparrow from BIRRR said it felt like Christmas had come early. She said, 'It was wonderful to log on to see all the data there.' That's the response. Regional people are delighted with what the coalition government is doing.

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator McKenzie, a final supplementary question.

2:40 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Can the minister outline why the coalition's plan is the best approach to delivering broadband services to regional Australia?

Photo of Fiona NashFiona Nash (NSW, National Party, Deputy Leader of the Nationals) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, I can. If ever there was an example showing that the Labor Party is the party of inner-city elites, it was its attempted delivery of broadband services to regional Australia. Not only did it underestimate demand for NBN in rural and remote areas by up to two-thirds; it planned on leaving one of the two satellites just bobbing around up there as backup only. In addition, the Labor Party thought that a download limit of 35 gigs a month would be acceptable for end users. How out of touch are they?

The coalition's approach to the NBN means that end users can now access large amounts of data on a fast connection, without having to sell the farm to pay for it. It's this coalition government that's delivering the NBN services we need. Those on the other side didn't. They invested zero dollars in mobile coverage. Compare that to us. You have to ask, 'Why does the Labor Party hate regional Australia?' because it certainly has no interest in providing much-needed communication services for the bush. (Time expired)