Statement - Infrasturcture and Communications Committee

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10.40 am)—I wish to make a statement on the committee’s inquiry into the role and potential of the National Broadband Network. I want to take the opportunity, with my deputy chairperson, the member for Hinkler, to bring the House up to date on the progress of the inquiry currently underway by the Infrastructure and Communications Committee into the role and potential utilisation of the National Broadband Network. This was a referral made to the committee on 6 November last year by Minister Albanese, with a target for a report by the middle of this year, which we are aiming to achieve by August of this year.

The important thing is that committee has been asked to look at a very broad range of areas in which the National Broadband Network can be utilised in order to provide new transformative ways of delivering services across a number of government areas, including health, education and local government.

We have already had a few submissions from local councils and regional divisions of local councils joining together and giving evidence—these are up on the website—about the sorts of improvements in delivery of their own services that they are looking to utilise the National Broadband Network to deliver.

Also, we will look at broader agenda items such as environmental sustainability and regional growth and development.

It would be fair to say that if you look at the submissions to date that are on the website you will see that there is an overriding tone to the submissions received so far about how soon the rollout can get to them as they have all sorts of proposals that they want to get underway. So we are very keen to get out and talk to those communities and have a look at what they are looking to do. It will also give them the opportunity to indicate to us where they may see problems or additions that are required in government policy to enable them to utilise those opportunities. So we are particularly appreciative of some of the more technical and specialist submissions that have been made to the committee about the development of products, services and applications that will be utilised on a fibre-to-thehome national broadband.

At this point in time there are about 47 submissions on the committee’s website. I am advised that, given that submissions closed last Friday, there was a significant rush on the Friday to lodge additional submissions. In fact quite a few extensions have been granted to allow people more broadly to participate.

The committee is particularly keen to hear from a wide cross-section. As chair, I particularly would like to encourage anyone who has evidence dealing with what I think is the important social and community benefit of a national broadband network fibre-to-thehome model. Something that international experience has highlighted is the capacity to give connection and participation opportunities to people who have mobility problems. This might be because of social isolation resulting from disability or because of ageing or infirmity issues. I have a simple example in my own area. I visited some social housing where a lady in her 70s took us in to show us her new unit. She said, ‘Don’t worry about the computer. That is my Skype connection on which I talk to all my friends in the US.’ She said that a particularly important part of moving into a new facility for her was the upgraded infrastructure for communications so that she, despite her mobility issues, could stay connected with friends around the world. To me it epitomised how significantly important from a social perspective this sort of infrastructure is. I particularly encourage people who have evidence or issues to raise with us about that to contact the committee. I invite them to participate as we begin the journey of our visits around the nation to capitals and regions. (Time expired)