NBN Lalor

I rise today to talk about the multiplicity of difficulties that we are having in my electorate in telecommunications. I say it is a multiplicity of difficulties because it is very difficult to get a clear picture of what is going on. However, I have got a clear picture of people being very unhappy with the services and having their lives—'inconvenienced' is a word that comes to mind, but I do not think it quite qualifies, and the picture I paint soon will give people a better understanding of the impacts that a lack of planning and provision is having on the electorate. Some people talk about no access. Some people talk about no choice of access. Some people want to talk to me about costs incurred for incredibly expensive wireless when there is no alternative. Some people want to talk to me about the fact that they cannot get a telephone line connected to their home.

The electorate of Lalor has—as I say every time I get to my feet in this place—200,000 residents, and it is growing by five to six thousand people a year. They are moving into new estates, into newly built homes. People talk about the affordability of housing: the electorate that I represent is where we provide the affordable housing in Victoria; it is where people can come to live on modest incomes. And those people come wanting to build a community and to find local connections, but local jobs are scarce and there are huge commutes. This means that this community becomes more reliant on telecommunications for their communication with one another. The building industry is a huge employer in Lalor. We build an enormous number of homes, so the house-building sector also attracts a lot of tradies to the area; a lot of young families with tradespeople working, as close by as they can, in that housing sector. I had a conversation with a young tradesman with a couple of children just last week. He came into the office to complain that, because of the access issues to the internet, he is missing out on business. He has a website that he needs to maintain, and he cannot maintain it because he cannot get reliable internet access. He cannot participate in any of the 'find a tradie' systems that we all use; that I know I use—if I have a plumbing issue, I go straight online to 'find that plumber', and I ring the closest one. But he cannot keep his business connected in that way.

This is not innovative; this is how we now expect to live. This is regarded as normal. So for me, provision of the NBN, or provision of internet access, to my community—and telecommunications in general—is an equity issue. I look at the maps of the ADSL coverage, and I look at the maps of the NBN rollout, and I find large areas within the electorate with no coverage. These are new suburbs—with no coverage. I know the legislation now says that the developer will provide the coverage, but we have a missed timing—where we have no coverage and we have people moving in. There are also issues with streets where one side has internet access and the other does not. We are creating haves and have nots within our community, when it comes to telecommunications. And there are impacts on families. Of course, as a former teacher I know the demands on families for internet access. I know that schools are now wired for children to be able to upload their homework, and to download their homework, particularly in secondary schools, and that this causes enormous stress in families. We have a high number of migrant families, keen to talk to relatives overseas utilising Skype and other low-cost services. The worst of this is that there were no new areas in Lalor included in the proposed rollout maps last year—no new areas, in the fastest-growing area and a very poorly serviced area in Melbourne. We have costs issues on top of that. We have a $600 additional charge to connect the NBN from 1 July. This will go up to $900—in an area where people are moving into new homes every day. That is an extra cost of almost $1,000 for families looking for affordable housing.

Next week, I am launching a survey asking locals to tell me those stories so that I can bring them into this parliament. And I will be asking Minister Turnbull and the Abbott government to ensure that in the next round of the NBN rollout, Lalor is included and those gaps are filled.

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