Posted on Tuesday, 12 December, 2017
Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (15:52): When the coalition was elected to parliament in 2013 there were no premises in my electorate of Grey connected to the NBN. Work had started in Port Augusta, but it had ceased because the contractor had withdrawn from the contract. In fact, they'd gone broke. It was the same in Western Australia. The entire number of South Australian and Western Australian contractors had withdrawn, so it had ground to a halt even after very little activity.
Every target had been missed nationally, except one. The NBN met one target under Labor, and that was employee numbers. There were plenty of employees in the NBN, but they weren't getting much done. The financial estimates were out by billions. The NBN had a board where no-one on that board had any experience in running a telco. No wonder it was such a disaster! Just 51,000 people were connected Australia-wide after six years of Labor government. And remember that the NBN was an electoral commitment from Kevin Rudd in 2007. So, in six years: 51,000.
Now, by comparison, the NBN connects over 40,000 a week. In Grey—and I'd like to talk about Grey, the electorate I represent, quite a bit here—54,000 have been passed by either the fibre-to-the-premises or the fibre-to-the-node technology; 20,000 are connected; 14,000 have wireless available; 3,800 are connected; and 250 are connected—that's not correct. I have a wrong number there, Mr Deputy Speaker. But the satellite is available to 14,000 and 2,200 have been connected. In fact, 99 per cent of Grey has the NBN available now, as of this day.
That underlines the commitment that the Prime Minister made when he was the Minister for Communications when we came to government in 2013. He said: 'We will concentrate on those areas of Australia that have the worst service first. We will connect them first, because they need the help the most.' Grey was certainly in that boat, because we had no NBN connection across the whole electorate, and most of it was served by reasonably poor technology. To come to the satellite service, in September we lifted the data limits for peak times by 50 per cent. We lifted the data available in off-peak periods by 100 per cent; we doubled it. These figures underline just how much we have improved connectivity for those who live within rural Australia.
Normally, federal members' offices attract complaints about things like communications. People, quite rightly, know that these are federal issues. My office is receiving, on average, four complaints a week now, and they are almost always concerning providers, not concerning the network at all. 'People haven't rolled up on time to do their connection' or 'I made an appointment and no-one arrived' or 'They said they'd come back next week and didn't'—those types of complaints. About the technology itself, after an initial flurry, things have settled down very well, so I'm very pleased with our performance. I'm very pleased with the performance of the technologies that have been rolled out in Grey. That includes all of those technologies. Those people are accessing wireless. I'm not on wireless. In fact, my service is satellite. I'm one of those 12,000 who haven't got around to connecting to it yet. I can't get myself home long enough to ring up and tell someone I'm there to be connected. At this stage, I'm still running on a mobile phone signal—something I need to address. One of my staff members, though, is connected to satellite and says she is quite able to watch movies during the week, quite able to access Netflix and very, very happy with the service. Those people who are on wireless are telling me they have a very, very good service.
We have a few towns left to connect up—including the one from which I come, Kimba, which was a late inclusion to the wireless network; they'll be connected in 2018—but 99 per cent of Grey have the NBN available. That is a wonderful endorsement of those comments by the Prime Minister, when he was the communications minister, saying, 'We will address those parts of Australia that have the worst service first.' I thank him and I thank this government for delivering on that commitment.