GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO DO BETTER ON NBN

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (18:54):  I want to take the opportunity in this debate today to touch on some of the matters raised in the motion moved by the member for Mallee and talk more generally about major regional cities and the NBN rollout in my area. When the Labor government proposed the rollout for the seat of Cunningham there was no requirement for the satellite based technology. All of my area was being covered by the rollout of fibre.

However, when those opposite came to government and introduced the mixed technology solution—which was supposedly going to be so much cheaper but, I will point out, has ended up so much more expensive—I ended up with one area in my electorate that was put onto the satellite service, Darkes Forest. The previous speaker commented about the nature of seats like his own, which cover huge broad expanses. But Darkes Forest is probably an hour from Sydney. It's in the northern part of the electorate, halfway between Sydney and Wollongong. It's certainly not out in the broad expanse of the Australian continent. The premises in this area are listed as 'ready to connect', but the technology available through the Sky Muster satellite service is a poor second choice for many people when they considered they were getting the fibre solution originally.

The area has little to no mobile coverage, and many residents have already been experimenting with satellite solutions themselves—at a significant cost, obviously. They found the satellite options to be unreliable, slow and temperamental, depending on weather. So they are very concerned and they have been raising with me their concerns that the Sky Muster service is costly and insufficient to their needs. So they're certainly not pleased that they were moved under this new technology mix, away from getting fibre, to a satellite service.

The other consistent problem that is raised with me—and we have just about completed the rollout in my region—is that there are places where the fibre-to-the-node solution is leaving streets, individual houses and business areas unconnected and not able to be activated because of the copper in the ground, the quality of the copper or the distance they are from the node. The Port Kembla business chamber are constantly raising with me the very poor NBN service and the drop-outs they get, mainly because they were on the fibre-to-the-node rollout. Phone lines can be down for days, even weeks, particularly if there's heavy rain and there are impacts on the pits. This is a very serious impact on their businesses.

The most common complaints from individuals are around the extended delays to the rollout due to copper lines being too far from the node cabinet. For example, Raquel from Mount Kembla, applied for the NBN in November 2018 and was told it would take six months. She was then given a completion date of August this year. That date came and went, and she was still not ready. The completion date was pushed back to December this year. In early September, contractors attended her premises for equipment tagging and advised her it would take another two weeks for the work to be completed. But the NBN could not advise her that it would actually be completed. It was just an absolute disruption to their lives and it took far longer than it needed to. She was particularly angry about the failure of anyone to take accountability and to communicate effectively with her as a consumer. Many of us could appreciate that. When you have to take time off work and make these appointments and people don’t turn up, or people you didn't expect are turning up, it can be very frustrating.

James Lancaster of Coledale has been trying to get connected to the premises since he moved there in April 2017. His neighbours are actually connected. He has no ADSL service. Mobile reception is almost non-existent, even with a booster. Every time he contacts NBN, they say it will be six months, then another six months, then another six months. My office has been chasing up and have been told it won't be at least until January 2020. This is a gentleman who is sitting in a street where his neighbours have it. So there's still much work to be done. I particularly want to reflect my constituents' concerns that the quality of communication and engagement with people could be vastly improved.

Watch Sharon’s speech here.