Minister For Broadband, The Hon Stephen Conroy At The RDA Regional Leaders Summit (08/11/2012)

StephenConroy.jpgGood morning

* Premier Barry O’Farrell

* Greg Pearce, Minister for Finance and Services and Minister for the Illawarra

*Our hosts, Judy Raper, Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Wollongong, and

Eddy deGabrielle, Chair, RDA Illawarra

* Gordon Bradbery, Lord Mayor, City of Wollongong (Ind)

* Brian Petchsler, Mayor of Kiama (Ind)

* Federal and state members of Parliament

* Ladies and gentlemen

It is pleasure to be here.


It is always a pleasure to visit the Illawarra region; this is an area that embraces the opportunities of high speed broadband.

It was one of the first areas on the mainland to get the National Broadband Network.

I am delighted to say that the Illawarra has embraced the NBN more than any other region in Australia.

The enthusiasm and take-up for the NBN is a reflection of the Illawarra’s determination to take charge of its future.

The region is moving beyond its traditional economic base of steel and coal into the digital economy.

Diversification requires innovation.  

Not just innovation by individual businesses and enterprises ... but a culture of innovation.

Such a culture is something that cannot be mandated but it can be, and should be, supported and fostered.

Here in the Illawarra, support has come in many forms; RDA Illawarra, Kiama Municipal Council and the University of Wollongong are at the centre of it.

Culture of Innovation

Innovation is central to the Gillard government’s plan to boost productivity growth.

Our nation can not only rely on natural resources for our future prosperity.

One of the ways we are boosting innovation is by encouraging collaboration between industry and researchers.

That has particular resonance here, where the University of Wollongong is a leader in innovation and ICT.

NBN Rollout

Innovation in the digital economy can only occur where the broadband infrastructure exists to support it.

Research in 2011 by the McKinsey Global Institute confirmed the internet is a powerful catalyst for job creation.

The National Broadband Network is a catalyst for the growth of high-value, high-tech jobs.

The economic multiplier effect for such jobs is up to three times that for jobs in traditional manufacturing.[1]

That is particularly good news in a region that has experienced industry restructure.

As I said, the take-up for the NBN in the Illawarra is truly impressive.

It is the highest in the country at more than 43 percent.

The NBN Implementation Study found a take-up rate of only 6‑12 per cent per year was needed to make the NBN viable.

Work has begun to make fibre available to a further 18,500 homes and businesses in Wollongong and Dapto, as well as Kiama.

The NBN Co three-year fibre rollout plan commits to fibre for 94,700 premises to be complete, or under construction, in the Illawarra by 30 June 2015.

The Illawarra and ICT

The NBN will continue to grow the Illawarra’s reputation for innovation and ICT.

Currently the University of Wollongong is a key player in the ICT sector, producing HALF of all ICT graduates in New South Wales.

It produces one in seven nationally.

The University also houses Australia’s largest tertiary ICT research institute.

The region’s other main tertiary institute, TAFE Illawarra, is also providing quality ICT training and turning out significant numbers of graduates.

We know that entrepreneurship and innovation go hand-in-hand. 

Nowhere is this more so than in technology, where the ability to think ‘outside the box’ is a key differentiator.

The University of Wollongong understands the power of entrepreneurship.

I am pleased to see i-Accelerate, the new high-tech start-up business incubator, making great progress. 

The incubator will increase the productive capacity of the Illawarra by supporting the development of a high-tech industry cluster here in the Illawarra. 

It will leverage the early rollout of the NBN in this region. 

I think it is a prime example of the exciting developments in innovation we can expect to see as the NBN becomes a reality across the country.

You will be hearing about this fabulous project from Elisabeth Eastland later.

High-speed broadband and ICT are critical to the Illawarra’s diversification.

To further the region’s engagement, the Government is funding RDA Illawarra for an NBN Expo.

The Illawarra NBN Expo will continue to promote local awareness of the NBN, and showcase the opportunities it brings to the region.


Preparing for the NBN is important, because it will change our social and economic framework.

It renders distance increasingly irrelevant for business and social engagement.

It opens new markets and creates new efficiencies.

It means businesses located in regional areas will no longer be at a disadvantage compared to their metropolitan competitors.

Home-based businesses will be able to reach local, national and international markets.

Super-fast broadband increases the potential for more businesses to operate from suburban or regional offices, including from home.

It will also break down many of the traditional barriers to employment through telework.

Telework enables regional businesses to compete for the best employees for the job, wherever they live.

Not just the best person in the region.

Telework can deliver increased cost-savings and productivity gains to business, and greater participation and choice for employees.

The government’s goal is to double Australia’s telework rate by 2020. 

We are aiming for 12 per cent of all Australians to have a regular telework arrangement with their employers by that time.

NBN-enabled high definition multi-party video conferencing will let Australians interact more easily with their workplace and clients.

The NBN’s fibre-to-the-home technology means they will be able to transfer large files quickly and collaborate in real-time.

Workers will be able to share documents and information as if they were in the office face-to-face.

Such is the importance of telework, we are holding the inaugural National Telework Week next week to explore the opportunities it can offer.

Telehealth trials

Telehealth is another of the great examples of how the NBN can change the way we live.

The switch on of fibre services in Kiama last July year provided a showcase for fall prevention telehealth services.

The NBN is being used to run a number of other important telehealth trials in this area.

A range of innovative chronic disease and mental health services is being delivered from Wollongong to Kiama.

Kiama residents with a range of chronic diseases are being recruited to take part.

Patients with conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease. 

The trial provides in-home monitoring and will allow patients to consult with health professionals using high-definition video-conferencing.

Such services reduce the need for patients to travel, which is particularly important for older patients.

They can receive high quality care at home.

The trial targets chronic disease because it is one of the most serious issues facing the health sector in Australia today.

Its burden will continue grow as our population ages.

Another focus is on mental health services in the Kiama district.

This trial uses the NBN to deliver a range of high-definition video-based services to young people.

Services like screening and initial assessment, treatment, case-conferencing and ongoing monitoring and support.

These services are now accessible to clients in their homes.

And they are also available at the public access points established at the North Kiama Neighbourhood Centre and Kiama Library.

Mental illness is a huge issue in this country, and the burden is growing.

The annual cost of mental illness in Australia has been estimated at $20 billion.

This includes the cost of lost productivity and labour force participation[2].

Young people are the most likely group in the community to experience a mental illness.

Twenty-five per cent of people with a mental disorder experience their first episode before the age of 12, and 64 per cent by age 21[3].

Telehealth has the potential to revolutionise health service delivery and health outcomes.

Digital Hubs and Enterprises and Digital Local Government

As the NBN is being rolled out, it is important no one is left behind.

Kiama Council has been at the forefront of understanding the impact of the NBN. 

The council is delivering online community engagement workshops using high definition videoconferencing. 

Residents will be able to engage with the council without having to travel into council offices. 

The potential for a dramatic improvement in how local government services are delivered is immense. 

The government is funding free training for small-to-medium enterprises and not-for-profit organisations to better understand how to take advantage of the NBN.

The Kiama Digital Hub is providing a wide range of digital literacy services to the local community through the NBN.

Many of the participants are older Australians with little knowledge or use of the computers and the internet.

When I launched the Kiama Digital Hub earlier this year, I was delighted to watch children interact in a kids’ storytime.

Pupils from Kiama Public School joined with children at a home-based playgroup, using high-definition video over the NBN.

To some of you, interactions like this might seem small cheese.

But it is indicative of the new and exciting era we are entering.


Our world is rich with both opportunity and challenge.

This summit is all about seizing the opportunities and meeting the challenges through innovation.

It is about our nation’s future... our productivity and economic growth.

It is about big, bold ideas and an environment in which they can be brought to fruition.

In Australia, I believe we have a culture that inspires innovation...that respects and values it.

And nowhere is that more clearly on display than here today, in the Illawarra.

I want to congratulate RDA Illawarra and the University of Wollongong for their commitment. 

They are together cementing this region’s future by embracing innovation and high-speed broadband.


Thank you


[1] BCG, Adapt and Adopt: Government’s role in Internet Policy, October 2012.

[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics, Feature Article 2: Mental Health,

[3] Australian 2011-12 Federal Budget,