Private Members' Business - National Broadband Development

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (11.54 am)—I rise to support the motion put to the House today by the member for Greenway. Her contribution and that of the member for Throsby encapsulated the reason that we, at least on this side of the House, are so adamantly enthusiastic about the National Broadband Network and why it was so resoundingly endorsed by so many people at the last election. We represent outer metropolitan, regional and rural communities who know only too well the failure of the market to deliver what is becoming an increasingly important piece of infrastructure for modern living, and that is fast, accessible and affordable broadband.

I am quite surprised that more members on the other side have not reflected that their offices, like mine, are consistently dealing with people contacting them to complain that, because of old pair-gain systems and outdated copper technology that has not been upgraded, their access to broadband is severely limiting the capacity of their family to operate. What I particularly hear from people is the effect it has on their children because of the importance of broadband as a study tool, not only at school but, obviously, also at TAFE and university. Many universities now have a huge access requirement. Students often have to download lecture documents and discussion papers that are large and take up quite a bit of capacity and time to access. That is an important reason for requiring broadband access.

It is also important for people who are running small and micro businesses at home. Home based businesses are an often misunderstood growth sector of our economy, particularly in our regions, where a number of people participate in our economy by running such businesses. For them, video access, allowing them to demonstrate their products so that people can view and order them online, is a requirement. This is a growing trend in our communities driving people to seek fast, secure, affordable broadband access.

I represent a region where about one in three of my voters travels outside the region for work every day.

I have a very large commuter base—which I know that both of my colleagues who have spoken on the debate today share. The capacity for teleworking and remote work access would decrease the pressures on our cities. For example, if a third of the commuters from my area who go to southern and western Sydney to do back-office jobs in HR and finance were able to work from home two or three days a week over a secure, fast connection to their workplace, it could decrease the demand for new road and rail networks as our cities develop. Through teleworking, a broadband network could address some of the transport and infrastructure issues of our cities, and there is an obvious environmental benefit to having fewer people travelling for work. That is a real opportunity that this broadband network is, importantly, opening up.

I understand that some of those opposite will argue, ‘Well, we also think fast broadband’s important; we just think it should be delivered in a different way,’ but they are living in a bit of a dream world. As the member for Throsby said, they have tried 19 different models.

None of them worked. None of them were getting us where we needed to be as a nation. We have bitten the bullet. We are putting in place a model that will deliver that.

With a delegation of this parliament to the United States in September 2009, I visited many tech companies, and they said to us clearly that our model was the way to go, that the models that relied purely on the private sector were failing those who could least afford to be failed: the disadvantaged, the isolated, those who most needed equity of access to participate in a modern community. We see the National Broadband Network as part of delivering access, equity, affordability and growth.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.