SPEECH – Some thoughts on the NBN

24 November 2016

That was almost a manic contribution. I often find myself in the position these days of having to devote so much of my time to pastoral care of our friends on the other side, to try to educate them. You can reject it—it is a feature of ignorance. I am about to let you know the real story in relation to the NBN. The other thing is that I made the comment only yesterday: farmers everywhere—people who live west of the Great Divide, people who live in provincial parts of the state—should break out in a cold sweat every time someone from the Labor and/or Greens coalition starts to talk about their interests. To be honest, I will bet you London to a brick it has been a long time since you have driven any more than 20 minutes where there have not been four lanes, Senator.

Senator Bilyk: You are condescending!

Senator O’SULLIVAN: This is my experience in the bush.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Bilyk, on a point of order?

Senator Bilyk: I am not sure which senator Senator O’Sullivan was referring to, but if he is not sure, three of the Labor senators in the room come from Tasmania. We would be lucky to get any four-lane highways.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: That is a debating point.

Senator O’SULLIVAN: To clear up the point for Senator Bilyk, I was referring to all four of them. The situation we have is that for decades the question of communications in the bush was ignored completely through the entire term of the Australian Labor government. I have met with dozens of families who reported to me that they had to get up in the early hours of the morning so they could just do a transaction with their accountant or a business transaction or simple search on the internet. I had many old-timers tell me—I remember one in particular when I was going through Birdsville, but it was consistent with reports that I was getting right across my own state of Queensland—that the School of the Air was more efficient that the communications system that had been provided to them under the former Labor government.

The stories and the accounts that I get from the bush are completely different to the one or two little exercises undertaken by the previous speaker. We now have the Sky Muster satellites, and that brings great promise to the bush. People are reporting now that they are able to function, particularly around the scope of education and delivery of health care. For example, we have had entire surgical units set up with the capacity to provide rural health services, which had not been able to function until this government came to power and brought the NBN on line with Sky Muster. They could not use the equipment. They had state-of-the-art equipment but they could not connect or communicate. So the story that I get as I move around my home state of Queensland is completely different to the story just provided.

It is a question of us rolling this out. If you go back to some of the figures, we are now on track to connect 1.2 million services this year. For the first four months there were 400,000 new customers. So if you want to have a conversation about how the market is responding, we are happy to have that conversation—400,000 new customers in four months, which is 100,000 customers a month. It is an increase. We added another 613,000 in the last financial year, so that will be 1.8 million Australians who will go on in just on two years with our rollout of the NBN. When you compare that with what was happening under Labor it is not hard to make the statistical comparison, because absolutely nothing was happening.

This was a multibillion dollar brainstorm when Labor dealt with it. I am sure the people in the gallery will be absolutely shocked to understand that the entire structure of the NBN, when the Labor government was in control of it, was done on the back of a napkin. We have all drawn on the back of a napkin—

Senator Brandis: I thought it was a beer coaster.

Senator O’SULLIVAN: I am sorry—on the back of a beer coaster—and we have all made annotations on the back of a beer coaster. You come here today to criticise this government, which is very organised. This government has absolutely exceeded all expectations in the rollout of the NBN. The rollout of the NBN will make the bush in Australia much more productive and, socially, a much better place to live, which is inconsistent with previous contribution.