When it comes to the National Broadband Network this government has systematically misled the Australian people.
Let us not forget that. You would think that a man who is credited with the grand title of having invented the internet would know something about the policy that he once had stewardship of. Before the last election they told the Australian people that they could roll the National Broadband Network out to all Australian households by this year. By this year it was going to be cheaper, it was going to be faster and it was going to be better.
Mr Fletcher: Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Under standing order 150(b) debate is required to be relevant to the amendment before the House, and there are five amendments that are before the House. Nothing that the member has said so far is relevant to those amendments.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Mitchell ): It relates directly to the bill and the amendment before it, and to the changes that are the bill, so I will allow it to continue.
Mr STEPHEN JONES: Before the election the then shadow minister for communications, the member for Wentworth, said that he could deliver the National Broadband Network—albeit a second-rate National Broadband Network—for $41 billion. Within 18 months that $41 billion had blown out to $56 billion—a 37 per cent increase. So much for being cheaper. The cost has blown out by over 37 per cent.
As far as being faster goes, there are suburbs within my electorate that were wetting their lips at the prospect of having access to the National Broadband Network by Christmas. They are going to be very disappointed indeed, because now it appears that they may not even be connected by 2020. This is a region that is relying on the National Broadband Network to assist it in its economic transition from manufacturing to more advanced forms of economic activity. Then we get to being better. I would have expected the members who represent regional Australia to have something more to say in their party rooms or in the joint party rooms about this. In regional Australia, as with the rest of us, access to broadband—safe, reliable, affordable broadband—is absolutely critical if you are running a small home-based business, as an increased number of people in regional Australia are, or if you are educating your children or you yourself are engaged in education and you are relying on broadband for distance education. Connecting Indigenous communities through the National Broadband Network is also absolutely critical. I would have expected more people to be standing up here and having more to say about the importance of broadband in regional Australia, but it has been absolutely crickets from that side.
We could forgive them for their incompetence if it could be proved that they did not know better, but in this morning's Sydney Morning Herald it has become patently clear to everybody who has followed this debate that, for over 18 months, they did know better. For over 18 months they did know better, and they kept it a secret from the Australian people. Their own trials, commissioned by this government and this minister and this Prime Minister, have proven beyond doubt that Labor's model of connecting fibre to the household can be done more cheaply, or at least as cheaply, as the second-rate broadband rollout that they are currently engaged in. They are trying to convince the Australian people that they can do it cheaper, that they can do it faster, that they can do it better. But we know that the opposite is the truth. This was made patently obvious to all Australians when we picked up a copy of The Sydney Morning Herald today, when we learned that the trials commissioned by those opposite, themselves, are proving that the price to connect fibre to the household is coming down and that it will be at least half the price it was at the beginning of this rollout debate.
I could forgive those members of the Liberal Party who do not really know much about regional Australia for sticking their hands up for this bill, but for the National Party to stick their hands up and to vote for a bill that is going to increase prices for people in regional Australia is nothing more than a sin.