Broadband

Late last year, a number of residents of the Epsom estate of Mordialloc in my electorate contacted me about the lack of availability of high-speed broadband in their area. Working with Janice Munt, the member for Mordialloc in the state parliament, I was able to bring this to the attention of Telstra and the then shadow minister for communications, Senator Conroy. The failure to upgrade the local exchange meant that residents in this area were unable to access what hundreds of millions of people in developed countries around the world take for granted. It was with some satisfaction that recently I was able to inform local residents that Telstra had agreed to upgrade the local exchange to make it ADSL2+ enabled.

Late last year, a number of residents of the Epsom estate of Mordialloc in my electorate contacted me about the lack of availability of high-speed broadband in their area. Working with Janice Munt, the member for Mordialloc in the state parliament, I was able to bring this to the attention of Telstra and the then shadow minister for communications, Senator Conroy. The failure to upgrade the local exchange meant that residents in this area were unable to access what hundreds of millions of people in developed countries around the world take for granted. It was with some satisfaction that recently I was able to inform local residents that Telstra had agreed to upgrade the local exchange to make it ADSL2+ enabled.

This will make a real difference to the lives of residents like Jarrod Boxall. It was Jarrod who brought this issue to my attention last year. He told me that he could not understand how, in 2007, a community like the Epsom estate, which is a new residential estate in a middle-ring suburb in Melbourne, could be without high-speed broadband—and nor could I. The unavailability of broadband made it near to impossible for him and other people to conduct their businesses from home.

High-speed broadband is no longer an optional extra. It is critical to full participation in contemporary society and in the modern economy. Communication technologies are intrinsic to the lives of so many people. The absence of these technologies makes it difficult for families to work from home, as many people do today. Indeed, without technology our children—in fact, all of us—are denied opportunities to learn, to be entertained and to communicate with friends and family.

In the longer term, we need government to take a leading role in infrastructure development in this country. The failure of the former government to provide national leadership has left Australia trailing compared to our trading partners. The Rudd government is committed to ensuring that broadband access will be provided to 98 per cent of homes and businesses, and it is going to be a network that is over 40 times faster than the current entry-level broadband speed. Importantly, to promote competition, it will be open access, ensuring that prices for consumers will be driven down.

I would like to touch on what this means for local businesses in my electorate, particularly in the manufacturing sector. As I mentioned in my first speech, the south-east region of Melbourne is an important region for manufacturing in Victoria and, indeed, in Australia. My electorate of Isaacs contains two important manufacturing areas, in Dandenong South and Braeside, where manufacturing industries provide tens of thousands of jobs across a range of sectors.

More and more, these are advanced operations that require highly skilled labour and leading-edge technologies. Traditional infrastructure, such as roads, utilities and water, remain important to ensuring that goods can be produced and then transported to market. But, increasingly, high-speed communications technology is critical to manufacturing operations remaining in Australia. The national broadband plan is a key to increasing productivity in our economy.

Our competitive advantage does not lie and will not in the future lie with Australia being a low-cost producer of consumer goods. The future of manufacturing in this country—and, potentially, manufacturing has a great future—will be based on a skilled workforce working with world-class technologies and innovative processes such as those we see in the south-east of Melbourne. We have the people and we have the ideas, but design, research and engineering will continue to happen here only if the technologies are provided to make them possible.

I know of one company in the Dandenong region, in my electorate, that has based their design team in Melbourne and their production team overseas. The production of their goods requires the transmission of enormous amounts of data across the globe. For this company, high-speed communications networks are not an option—they are an essential requirement to be able to compete. Without the means to communicate between plants, such a company would have no choice but to base more of its operations overseas. The Rudd government is committed to ensuring that the best communications technologies are fully available to the whole of the Australian community.