When it comes to broadband Liberals are good salesman of lousy product

tony_typing.jpgThis is an important public debate around one of the most important pieces of infrastructure to be built in this country this century. It is unfortunate in many respects that the debate that surrounds this important piece of infrastructure does not live up to the importance of the project itself. In his 15-minute submission in this debate the member for Wentworth amused us with an analogy about the salesman who found it very difficult to shift a product. I have got a salesman's analogy of my own and I think it is more apt. The truth that gets told to every salesman who is sent out there to flog a lousy product and the rule of every salesman knows is that if you have got to go out there and flog a lousy product, an inferior product, one that is not nearly as good as the competition, you do not talk about it. You do not talk about your own product—go out there and fling as much mud and do as much nitpicking as possible, do as much bagging and carping and whingeing as possible about your competition's product. But for God's sake never mention your own, because once you mention your own everybody will realise what a lousy product it is.

The member for Wentworth actually understands his policy. He does not believe in it but he understands it, unlike the Leader of the Opposition. The most awkward press conference we have seen in the last 12 months was the press conference where the Leader of the Opposition was standing alongside the member for Wentworth to announce their policy. You could see that the member for Wentworth could not get out of there quick enough. His hands were in his pockets, he was fidgeting. The Leader of the Opposition was reading from notes and had a very puzzled look on his face because he did not have a clue what he was talking about. That lies at the heart of this argument. You have got a Leader of the Opposition who does not understand his policy and a spokesman for that policy who does not believe in it. Is there any wonder that they are standing by that salesman's maxim that if you have got a lousy product in the marketplace, don't talk about it. Just go out there and bag the opposition because you do not want anyone to focus on your own product. It is a slower product that is going to cost the punters more for less. These guys have turned Joyce Mayne on her head: they are offering less for more.

They are proposing a three-tier program. For those who live in inner-city suburbs like the member for Wentworth they have probably already got fibre running past their houses and they have got the money to have it connected or they have got a cable provision or they can afford to buy the best sort of products and the best sort of services, unlike the rest of us. That is the top tier, those people who live in those inner-city suburbs who have the money and have the wealth to be able to buy the best broadband that is available.

Then there is the second tier of people under the opposition's program, the people who can afford to upgrade. The member for Wentworth is only proposing that they are going to bring fibre to the node, and in common speak that could be three kilometres from your house. One of those little grey cabinets that sits in every suburb is what he is talking about. The opposition will bring fibre to the node and if you have got the dough you might be able to spend a minimum of $5,000, more like $10,000, to drag the cable up to your street, up to your premises and get it connected. Then if you have the money you may be able to enjoy the same sort of broadband speeds, the same quality of service that the member for Wentworth enjoys in his very comfortable inner-city electorate. That is the second tier of people.

Then there is the third tier of people—people who live in the electorate that I represent; people who do not live in the inner city and are unlikely to have the dough for the upgrade. They will get the worst service, a service that they will no longer be able to afford, because the opposition's plan—have no doubt about it—is to scrap the NBN and provide less for more. There will be no joy in it for the residents of my electorate, people who know that under Labor's plan 67,000 houses and businesses within the electorate of Throsby are going to get the NBN. By June 2016, 67,000 houses and businesses are going to get the National Broadband Network. It is already rolling past houses and businesses in my electorate, and the only calls I have had from people in my electorate is, 'How quick can we get it on?' and 'I am very afraid of what the other mob might do.'

People in suburbs like Albion Park do not even get ADSL at the moment, after 11, 12 or 13 plans from those who sit opposite, who have the temerity to lecture us on broadband policy. After all the years that they were in government and all the plans, all the 'networking the nation', and the squandering of the resources of the Telstra sale—with a few boondoggles here and there for members in National Party seats—there is still no broadband for people who live in suburbs like Albion Park, Oak Flats or East Bowral, where they do not even have access to ADSL at the moment. They will not have it under those opposite. They know that under a Labor plan they will have access to faster, cheaper and reliable broadband—dragging them into the 21st century. All that is at threat from those on the other side.

So is it any wonder that those opposite—those good salesmen for a lousy product—will not talk about their own product? Is it any wonder that their strategy is to stand in this place and throw as much muck as they can possibly find—even going to the desperate depths of attempting to get some political advantage out of citizens' legitimate concern about exposure to asbestos? They have tried to whip that up into public hysteria for their own political advantage. I do not know how much lower you can go, if that is what you have stooped to in political debate.

I have to say that, if you are going to engage in a debate in this parliament about asbestos, you should at least have some standing on the matter. When I look across at those on the other side of the chamber, I see people who are left wanting—as has the debate over the last 24 hours been wanting from those opposite. Those opposite represent parties that, whenever they have been given the opportunity in any of the state parliaments around this country to do something for occupational health and safety for the working men and women of this country have done their darnedest to dismantle the protections and the compensation provisions that are currently enjoyed by working men and women in this country. Whenever they have had the chance to do something for the working men and women of this country, they have taken a hatchet to the protections that currently exist in all the state jurisdictions around the country. So, if you are going to enter this debate, you should make sure that you are doing it on firm ground and you should ensure that you have some standing on the matter.

I have quite a bit of expertise on this matter. I spent three years of my life campaigning for justice for people who are suffering from asbestos diseases. I spent three years of my life running a campaign with other members in this House, including the minister for industrial relations and the minister for industry, to bring rogue companies like James Hardy to justice and to ensure they put in place a perpetual fund to look after the former workers and those who have been exposed to asbestos products produced by James Hardy. That is what we did with our lives before we came to parliament. We looked after people to ensure that they or, more often than not, their families got some justice. By the time that their legal challenges and their compensation claims were dealt with by the company, more often than not the victim was dead and the compensation was there for their families. So we have standing on this issue.

Those on the opposite side of the chamber had the choice of fighting for the company or fighting for the workers who were exposed to asbestos products and they made their choice. Like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, they chose to fight for the company. They have absolutely no standing on this matter, and this matter of public importance should be seen for what it is—a conflated exercise in mud-throwing. The product that they are out there peddling in the market is a disgrace. They are offering less for more, and the people see through it. The people of Australia want the National Broadband Network. The longest line in my electorate is made up of Liberal Party members lining up trying to take credit for the fact that the NBN is rolling past the houses in the streets of their electorates.