I’m very happy to speak about the government’s great achievements on the NBN. After all, when this government came to office, we had the task of fixing Labor’s NBN mess, and what a mess it was! Labor had a gold plated approach which would have cost billions of dollars more and left millions of Australians behind. That is the standard the opposition sets: to do less with more. This government’s approach has ensured that the NBN has been delivered economically, efficiently and in time for the demands of COVID-19, a time when connectivity mattered, particularly in rural and regional Australia. During the pandemic, we saw the expanded demand on the NBN. As a result of the Liberals’ and Nationals’ efforts in government, the NBN was able to meet that demand. In a time of crisis, good management mattered.
Let’s compare the records of this government and the former Labor government. We find the contrast is stark. When Labor left office, a little over 67,000 homes in my home state of Queensland were ready for service, and less than 10,000 were actually connected. This was not good enough. As of February this year, the number of premises ready for service has soared under the Liberal-National government to 2,373,301. That is what good management delivers—better and more efficient services. In my electorate of Groom, which was almost completely ignored under Labor’s NBN plan, only 1,163 premises were connected to the NBN. Today we have over 56,000 services connected to the NBN and 100 per cent of premises in-ready-to-be-connected areas. That is why I’m more than happy to talk about the NBN and how, under the management of this government, nearly eight million premises are connected and more than 99 per cent of all premises in Australia are able to connect. Our plan is providing services and flexibility, particularly in regions such as mine, with many urbanised areas such as Toowoomba and Highfields and more rural areas such as Pittsworth, Oakey and Goombungee. We’re doing this with a varied mix of technologies such as fixed line, fixed wireless and satellite—another example of technology driving Toowoomba’s future. I’m more than happy to talk about how, in September 2020, Minister Fletcher announced a $4.5 billion NBN investment plan that will give 75 per cent of fixed-line premises across regional and metropolitan Australia access to ultra-fast broadband by 2023, and how this will occur via continuation of the multitechnology model. It’s because of this approach by this government that the NBN was there for Australians when they needed it, when almost overnight we had to adapt the way we worked, learned, accessed vital services and kept in touch with our families.
I’m also happy to talk about the NBN under Labor, and how, after six years of Labor mismanagement of the NBN, just 51,000 users were connected. Labor paid $6 billion for the NBN to pass just three per cent of Australian premises. The rollout was so badly managed that contractors downed tools and stopped construction in four states. That is all before I even mention how under Labor the NBN missed every rollout target that it set for itself. It’s very easy to set targets; it’s quite another thing to hit them.
The issue the opposition is seeing to canvass here today has been dealt with at length and has been debunked at length, but let’s do it again. The independent assessment of the 2013 strategic review found that the proposed Labor fibre rollout would have taken three years longer to complete than indicated in the Labor plan. This also included a revised and delayed end date of June 2024, with a peak funding requirement of $72.6 billion. That would have left Australian homes, schools and businesses completely unprepared, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Labor’s NBN was going to leave Australians disconnected. According to the last published and, shall we say, very optimistic corporate plan under Labor, in June 2020, in the very midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there would still have been well over 1.2 million homes and businesses that could not order an NBN service.
By contrast, this government has delivered the NBN efficiently and economically when Australians needed it most, with over 11.9 million premises ready to connect. Over 99 per cent of Australian premises can now order an NBN service, more than eight million premises have been connected to the NBN, and today 70 per cent of homes and businesses are on plans with speeds of 50 megabits per second or higher. Under Labor, the NBN was a complete mess. This government has got on with fixing that mess, and Australia is grateful.