Contrary to what has been raised by those opposite in this motion today, the coalition’s track record on the NBN is a clear win. We inherited a train wreck project from Labor, and, through hard work and very sensible management, we were able to turn it around, so that by the end of our time in government, over 99 per cent of Australians were connected to the NBN.
I want to reflect quickly on some of the comments. To hear the debate, you would think there were two very different Australias being spoken about—one where there was an NBN for people and one where there was not. What proves the point that the NBN was there is that we did have an incredible switch to working from home throughout the pandemic. It happened. The NBN was there, and it was used at a time when we needed it. The very suggestion that somehow it was missing is completely blown away by the simple facts. In my area, we’ve had people flock to the regions. In fact, the migration that we saw from all the capital cities to the regions was only possible because the NBN was there, so that people could work from home. So this mythology of something that went missing or simply wasn’t there is just completely disproved by the pure facts of movement that we’ve seen across the nation.
In my electorate of Groom, we were one of the first in the country to be connected to the NBN, way back in 2013—what a good year for Australia that was—with crucial upgrades to speed and reliability delivered over the following years under the coalition. Most recently, in April of this year, the Toowoomba region was announced as part of the seventh tranche of suburbs and towns across Australia to become eligible to upgrade to NBN’s fibre to the premises rollout, with businesses and residences benefiting from the ultrafast broadband of up to one gigabyte per second. The fibre-to-the-premises rollout will see 75 per cent of premises, eight million in total, connecting with ultrafast speeds by the end of next year. My region was also the beneficiary of being one of the NBN’s business fibre zones which were established in 300 locations under the previous government’s watch. The initiative gave more than 850,000 small businesses access to lower cost, higher speed broadband, and this was a game changer in the way that business was done in our region. It prepared us well for the challenges of a fully remote working model during COVID, as I referred to earlier.
With access to fast broadband speed, businesses in my area were able to buy and sell goods here and overseas and upskill their staff through online programs. I also know of several business leaders working for large corporate firms who were able to come back out of places like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and move back to Toowoomba to run their business from there. And who wouldn’t? We’ve got everything you could possibly want and need in our beautiful Garden City and you can get away from the drudgery of inner-city living. I see those opposite agreeing quite violently, and I’ll enjoy their contribution later.
Regional digital infrastructure was an ongoing priority of the previous coalition government because we understand that regional towns don’t just need roads and bridges, although we do need roads and bridges, but we also need the cabling and satellites that connect us digitally to the world we work in. That’s why we announced, back in March, that $480 million would be included in the 2022-23 federal budget to significantly improve the capability of NBN’s fixed wireless and satellite networks. That was to give up to one million premises in regional, rural, remote and peri-urban areas access to higher speeds on NBN fixed wireless services or greater data limits on Sky Muster.
Thanks to an expansion in the fixed wireless footprint, it would also enable more regional users to transition to this service and off Sky Muster. Unsurprisingly, this is another coalition announcement that Labor have tried to take credit for. As we keep seeing in this new term of government, they run out of ideas and they take ours, and I think that’s a great thing. A good idea is a good idea, whether it’s ours or whether it’s taken, and I encourage more of that.
On 27 June this year, the communications minister tried to assign herself credit for the Liberal-Nationals $480 million decision, but this simply wasn’t true, and it exposed Labor’s negligible interest in delivering communications infrastructure across rural and regional Australia. We can’t forget that, when Labor was last in government, it connected just 51,000 users to the NBN and failed to fix a single mobile blackspot.
Turning now to Labor’s $2.4 billion cash injection into the NBN, the Albanese government has irresponsibly hit taxpayers with an unnecessary multibillion dollar burden at a time when our budget bottom line simply can’t afford it. This is the complete opposite of the approach the coalition took with its $4.5 billion investment into the NBN in 2020. We financed our investment through the NBN’s retained earnings and private sector loans, meaning no additional investment by the Commonwealth or taxpayers was required.