I rise today to speak to the NBN Co. Ltd report. I was really delighted to be present on 1 March when the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator the Honourable. Stephen Conroy announced stage 3 of the delivery of the Rudd government’s National Broadband Network in Tasmania. Minister Conroy was the bearer of some exciting news for Tasmanians on a significant expansion of the rollout in this state. Minister Conroy announced that the Rudd government will make an equity injection for $100 million into my home state, Tasmania, through the Tasmanian NBN company to facilitate the further rollout of the fibre-to-the-home broadband. This is stage 3 of the NBN rollout and it will extend delivery to 90,000 premises in the major population centres of Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie. Detailed design work is now underway with 40,000 premises in Hobart, 30,000 in Launceston and 10,000 each in Burnie and Devonport to receive access to optic fibre.
The Rudd government’s $100 million investment will mean that, combined with the first two stages, the NBN rollout in Tasmania has now risen to around 100,000 premises, including homes, businesses, schools and hospitals. This work will connect communities which are mostly underserviced with high-speed optical fibre broadband. The National Broadband Network will change the fabric of our nation, and it is wonderful that Tasmanians will be the first to benefit. The National Broadband Network is about more than just high-speed telecommunications. It is about better access to health services for Tasmanian families. It is about better education opportunities for Tasmanian kids. It is about creating new business opportunities and stimulating Tasmania’s economy. And it is about creating and keeping jobs in Tasmania.
Leading key Tasmanian industry players have strongly endorsed the NBN project. Robert Wallace, CEO of the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says that broadband is the business tool of the future. He states:
This will certainly allow us to interface with our customers and our consumers far more efficiently and more cost effective.
The President of the Tasmanian ICT, Darren Alexander, has said that the rollout of the NBN in Tasmania provides ‘an opportunity to be one of the best and to be the first to be able to be driving this project’. Chris Oldfield, Chief Executive of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association states:
For farming it will be revolutionary. It will change forever what we do and the way we do it.
The strong working relationship between the Rudd and Bartlett governments has been fundamental to bringing the NBN to Tasmania. The Rudd government appreciates the hard work and support of the Bartlett government. The Tasmanian Labor government knew a good opportunity when they saw it, and they capitalised on it by making a compelling bid to the government’s RFP processes last year. The Bartlett government has put Tasmania at the forefront of broadband transformation in this country.
Yet the leader of the federal opposition continues to actively oppose the NBN—a position he first mooted in his maiden speech to the House of Representatives as opposition leader late last year. Mr Abbott is apparently oblivious to the need for Australia to be at the forefront of the rapidly developing information superhighway and ignorant of the opportunities which I have just outlined. He would actively seek to deny not just Tasmanian but all Australian citizens and businesses the opportunity to fully participate in the global information age. I call on the Tasmanian federal Liberal Party representatives and the leader of the Tasmanian Liberals, Will Hodgman, who professes his support for the NBN rollout in Tasmania, to condemn the short-sighted and ignorant policy stance of their federal leader. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.