Mon, 08 Nov 2021 - 14:27
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Connecting Western Sydney

Unlike Labor, the Coalition doesn’t take Western Sydney for granted. Since we came to office in 2013, the Morrison Government’s investment in Western Sydney has been unprecedented.

 

The centrepiece, of course, is Western Sydney International Airport—an investment of up to $5.3 billion. It is a privilege to be the Minister with responsibility for delivering the airport—just as it is a privilege to be responsible for another transformative infrastructure investment we are making in the region: high-speed broadband.

 

Apparently there are some “stark figures” on which Labor’s Communications spokeswoman, Michelle Rowland, based her recent claim to the Blacktown Advocate that broadband in Western Sydney is expensive and unreliable; it seems they come from a “grassroots” advocacy group.

 

So let’s look at some reliable data—analysis by NBN Co, who actually operate the network. Far from being a laggard, Western Sydney is leading the charge for high-speed broadband. The number of Australian household choosing broadband plans with peak download speeds of 100 Mbps and above more than doubled in the 12 months to January this year, and it was communities in Western Sydney that led the charge: the leading postcode was 2170, based around Liverpool, Casula and Moorebank.

 

That’s precisely why Western Sydney is at the forefront of upgrades that will extend fibre deeper into communities, under our $4.5 billion network investment plan announced last year.

 

And what about affordability? Recent research from Accenture showed the average weekly household spend on services delivered over the NBN network is just 1.1 per cent of household income. Accenture found over the past 20 years, retail telecommunications prices have fallen markedly, and are now 20 per cent lower than in the year 2000. This compares to a 60 per cent increase in overall Consumer Price Index during the same period.

 

Nor is it clear why, as alleged in the article, it is a bad thing if customers opt to use mobile technology, rather than NBN-provided services, to access the internet. The Morrison Government does not want the NBN to be the only provider servicing Australia.  That was Labor’s mindset; we prefer competition.

 

Let’s compare our record with Labor’s a little more closely.

When we came to office in 2013, after six years Labor had spent $6.5 billion on the NBN, contracted to spend many billions more—and yet had connected barely 51,000 premises to the fixed-line network.

Following a Strategic Review to find out what was really happening, we made a plan to get the NBN rolled out much more quickly and cost effectively.  At the heart was the “multi-technology mix”—of fibre to the premises, fibre to the curb, fibre to the node and hybrid fibre coax. The plan worked.  Seven years on, 12 million premises—over 99 per cent of the total—are able to connect to the NBN.

There are 8.4 million premises connected right now, with over 900,000 premises connected in the 2020-2021 financial year. 

 

That almost all Australians can now connect to the NBN is one marker of success.

 

Another is that NBN increasingly meets Australians’ needs when it comes to the speeds they take, the prices they pay and the amount of data they download. And that very much includes Western Sydney.

 

So the Morrison Government will not be lectured by Ms Rowland and her colleagues on how to deliver reliable, affordable broadband to Australian households. 

 

Labor did a hopeless job on delivering the NBN when in government. They have forfeited any right to be taken seriously on this issue.

 

By contrast, state and federal Liberal National governments are delivering new infrastructure in Western Sydney at an unprecedented rate.

 

Opposition MPs can get on with complaining: we’ll get on with delivering.