Wednesday, 5 December 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator Fifield. Can the minister update the Senate on recent news in relation to the benefits that NBN connectivity is bringing to the Australian economy, Australian businesses and, in particular, Australian businesswomen?
I can, indeed. Three weeks ago, I cited research by AlphaBeta Advisors, a firm headed by Andrew Charlton, who was previously chief economic adviser to former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. That revealed that the NBN is driving business growth across the country and, in particular, female entrepreneurship. For example, the research found the growth in self-employed women in NBN-connected areas is 20 times the pace of that in non-NBN-connected areas. Last week, a televised address featuring three leading businesswomen at the National Press Club put real faces to the stats which show how connectivity is helping women realise their business dreams.
Naomi Simson, founder of RedBalloon, which sells experience gifts like cooking classes or skydiving to 500,000 Australians every year, said her business would not have been possible without the internet, which enabled her to care for her children and work from home to create a business which is currently turning over $80 million a year. Indigenous woman Mikaela Jade built her cutting-edge tech firm, Jabiru, three hours drive from Darwin. Mikaela showed how augmented reality technology is bringing ancient Indigenous stories to the world via an impressive app which you can download on your phone. She spoke about how internet connectivity is helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities sell their bush medicine products to the world over the web. And Olivia Ruello, CEO of Business Chicks, uses the internet to drive Australia's largest and most influential community for women. Last week, these women took to the national stage as real-life examples of how fast broadband delivered over the NBN is helping to achieve business dreams.
Minister, can you elaborate on what the AlphaBeta research has shown about the Liberal-National government's rollout of the NBN and its role in creating more jobs and greater opportunity for Australian businesses and families?
In today's world, being connected is an essential service, and it's one that offers significant economic benefits for business. According to the AlphaBeta research, in the 2017 financial year, the NBN was estimated to have generated $1.2 billion in additional GDP nationally, including $450 million in regional Australia. Once the rollout is complete, it's estimated that the network will deliver an additional $10.4 billion in GDP per year nationally, including $5.3 billion a year in regional areas. Thanks to the actions of this administration, the majority of Australians are, I'm pleased to report, having a good experience. In March, the ACCC's Rod Sims said that speed delivery was 'better than expected' and that the results 'go against the current wisdom that the majority of consumers and businesses are having issues with NBN speeds'.
Minister, I, too, was impressed by the Press Club's panellists who spoke of how technological innovation has helped their businesses succeed. Could the minister update the Senate on the latest technology innovations that will ensure that the NBN is fit for purpose for generations to come and how it will help create a stronger economy in the long term? Potentially, what would be the consequences of changing direction at this important time?
Last week, the NBN began installing the new G.fast technology over the fibre-to-the-curb technology, which will deliver the same gigabit speeds as fibre to the premises but at around $1,500 per premises less and with no need to dig up everyone's front yards to deliver it. In August, NBN released DOCSIS 3.1 technology which will nearly double downstream capacity and provide gigabit speeds over the HFC part of the network when future demand requires it. When our colleagues opposite were in office, the NBN wasn't allowed to deviate in the slightest from the fibre-to-the-premises model, no matter the cost and no matter the weight. They were paralysed by technology constraints which saw some houses costing $20,000 and more to connect to fibre. This government is not taking a theological approach to the NBN. We're taking a technological approach. We're getting it built. It will be done and dusted by 2020. That's good news.