Second Reading Speech: Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2016-2017, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2016-2017, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2016-2017

Dr LEIGH (Fenner) (18:42): I was 11 years old when I bought my first computer. It was back in 1984 and the machine called an Aquarius. It had rubber keys, a cassette drive, a black and white television was its monitor and it held a little less than four kilobytes in memory. Back then, the machine was, well, not start of the art, but pretty close. We have come a fair way from that to the advent of the iPad Air.

We didn't get there by settling for second best. We did not get there by saying, 'Well, the technology of today will do us for the course of the next generation.' That is the lesson that this government has failed to learn with its National Broadband Network. It is a government that thinks that investing in the future involves buying millions of metres of copper. Since the change of government, we have seen Australia fall from 30th to 60th in global internet rankings.

The National Broadband Network is 21st century infrastructure. For my electorate of Fenner the lack of access to high-speed broadband is one of the chief issues that is raised with me at street stalls, when I am out doorknocking and when I am speaking with constituents on the phone or in my office. My constituents recognise that we need a technology that is continuously upgradable. Back when I had my Aquarius, the Sydney Morning Herald's computer correspondent predicted that no computer program would need more than 16 kilobytes of memory. Since I stood up to speak tonight I have probably received at least a couple of emails of a size greater than 16 kilobytes. The fact is that the same thing will occur with the National Broadband Network, and the suggestion that Canberrans will only ever need 25 megabits of data per second misses the fact that the urban standard in South Korea is already 100 megabits per second and that country is now rolling out 1,000 megabits per second.

Australians do not deserve second-rate infrastructure. They need a national broadband network that ensures that schoolkids can engage in high-definition videoconferences. At the Gungahlin Public Library, where the internet hub is located, I have seen students from nearby Harrison School engaged in a high-definition videoconference with their counterpart school in Japan. In that environment there is the opportunity for schoolchildren to interact with one another almost as though they are in the same room. That is what superfast broadband can do—but only if we get fibre all the way to the premises.

In the last election the quality of national broadband was a critical issue in the ACT and I believe one of the reasons ACT Labor saw a swing towards us, not just on the north side, in Fenner, but also on the south side, in Canberra. It was a recognition of the importance of the National Broadband Network and a recognition that when it comes to infrastructure investment it is this side of the House that recognises the importance of investment. Canberrans can see already the benefits of Labor's far-sighted investment through the Majura Parkway, an infrastructure project jointly funded by an ACT Labor government and a federal Labor government under Julia Gillard, a piece of infrastructure that never would have received funding under a coalition government but that was funded by a federal Labor government because we recognised that what matters is the benefit-cost ratio—the economic benefit-cost ratio, not the political benefit-cost ratio.

In the electorate of Fenner I was very pleased to be supported for the last election by an extraordinary team of campaign volunteers: Suzanne Tatum, Teresa Foster, Maxine Deakins, David Simpson, corflute construction experts extraordinaire Rob and Robin Eakin, Glen Rose, David Adams, Guy de Cure, Martin Geng, David van der Wolf, Greg Gurr, Denis O'Brien, Keith Sayers, Ken Maher, Paul Maggs, Darryl Erbacher, Packi Rayappu, Teck Lee, Trev Smith, Anna Damiano, John Zerilli, Karen Dahl, Kris Sloane, Joe Walker, Rhianne Grieve, Gerry Lloyd and Maddy Wood. Gerry Lloyd is an extraordinary campaign volunteer, somebody who was first brought into active involvement in Labor politics when Gough Whitlam asked him to play a senior role in the branch—and Gerry has not looked back since. We all learn from his example of selfless dedication to the Labor movement.

On election day we were very fortunate to have as branch captains James Griffith, Naomi Nicholson, Damien McGrath, Nawaf Ibrahim, Lulu Respall-Turner, Helen Roberts, Rob and Margaret Eakin, Charlie Lewis, Gordon Ramsay—who is now standing as an ACT Labor candidate on the weekend—Russell Rollason, Leigh Ramsay, Wayne and Rhonda Berry, Nick Green, Michael Quirk, Vanessa Jacobsen, Chris Sant, Chris McGrane, Lisa Zwankhuizen, Mark Smith, Denis O'Brien, Meredith Hinchcliffe, Christine Wise, Chris Golding, Annie Haggar, Garrett Purtill, Aimee Kable and Richard Niven, who is also standing as a candidate in this weekend's election.

As booth workers: Minister Chris Bourke—again, a candidate in this weekend's election—Kim Tan, Bob McFadden, candidate Tara Cheyne, Darcy Egan, Chong-Suk Choe, Noel Gallagher, Ross Humphreys, Martin Geng, Bob Webster, Ian Pieper, candidate Kim Fischer, Bronwen and Ron Davis, Alan Roberts, Stanley Hambesis, Clare Best, Kevin Bryant, Valerie Ryle, Linda Rasmussen, Leanne Blackley, Roseanne Toohey, Margaret Gracie, Teresa Foster, Jesse Everett, candidate Deepak-Raj Gupta, candidate Minister Meegan Fitzharris, Krishna Nadimpalli, Barbara Preston, Dominic Dolan, Abi Nathan, Alexander See, candidate Michael Petterson, Joe Kelly, Thomas Hodgson, Emma Wise, Chris Hallett, Robyn Henderson, Robert Kelly, Dorothy Horsfield, Seamus Gill, Sankar Chatterjee, Patrick Rooks, Michael Bakos, Minister Yvette Berry, Darcy Egan, Adina Cirson, Ben Molan, Jeff Manny, Philip Dale, Wayne Ryan, Kim Johnston, Emma Webster, John Garnett, Michael, Warren, Nathalie Shepherd, Ann Thorpe, John Edge, Yar Ayub, Cheryl Gay, Belinda Hunt, Ian and Ute Diversi, Justin Underwood, Narelle Atkins, Rebecca Marks, Alexander See, Hayden Shaw, Roger Marchant, Christine Duke, Margaret Ryan, John Goss, Diane Spooner, Carmen Richardson, Alison Barnes, Michael Bailey, Erin Richardson, Deb Raha and Malika Gupta.

With a campaign team like that, one can hardly but wonder that Labor did so well in Fenner at the last election. But that focus on an investment approach to the ACT also characterises the way in which ACT Labor has approached its campaign. I mentioned in my remarks a number of those candidates on the north side who are now standing this weekend as candidates: Gordon Ramsay, Richard Niven, Chris Bourke, Tara Cheyne, Kim Fischer, Deepak-Raj Gupta, Meegan Fitzharris, Michael Petterson and Yvette Berry. They are part of 25 extraordinary candidates whom Andrew Barr will be leading to this weekend's election—an election which will be a referendum for the ACT on the investment approach versus the cuts approach. Here in the ACT we have an ACT government that recognises that Canberra is at its strongest when we continue to invest in the future. The benefits of the National Broadband Network that I spoke about earlier are not simply benefits in terms of how Canberrans use their computers for entertainment or indeed to access government services; they are also benefits that flow through on the business side. A recently released report by Deloitte Access Economics, prepared for Google, found that those nine per cent of small businesses that have an advanced level of connection are 1½ times as likely to be growing revenue, eight times as likely to be creating jobs, 14 times as likely to be innovating and seven times as likely to be exporting.

Here in the ACT, the benefits of the investment approach flow through to having a strong private sector. The federal coalition government has cut deep into the Public Service. They have shed more than the 12,000 jobs they said during the 2013 election would go—it is now getting up towards 20,000 public service jobs. It has been the ACT Labor government that has stepped in to ensure that the ACT economy does not tank.

In the ACT we have seen a government which recognises that light rail is essential for the ACT. Frankly, it has been surprising that Prime Minister Turnbull, who is so pleased to take selfies of himself with light rail in Queensland, is curiously reluctant to jump on the train when it comes to light rail here in the ACT. It is the same principle: a public transport system which is in the long-term interests of Canberrans.

We have also seen Andrew Barr's government delivering international flights for Canberra Airport, with regular international flights now scheduled to both Singapore and Wellington. Those who do frequent business in the ACT—and many in the parliament are among those—will appreciate now having the New Zealand and Australian capitals connected by a direct flight and being able to use Singapore as a gateway destination or, indeed, as a final destination in itself. That again epitomises the investment approach that we have seen from the ACT Labor government.

That investment approach involves investing in the health of Canberrans, too. The ACT Labor government has promised that, if ACT Labor wins the election, there will be new nurse-led walk-in centres in Weston Creek and Gungahlin. These centres have proven enormously popular among Canberrans. The Belconnen centre had more than 16,000 attendances in the last financial year. It provides free, one-off advice and treatment for people with minor illnesses and injuries, ensuring not only that people get the health support they need but also that they do not clog up the emergency system. While the ACT Liberals have been promising to rip money out of the ACT health system, it has been the ACT Labor government under Andrew Barr that has been investing.

There have also been important investments in ensuring that the social fabric of the ACT remains strong. There is a commitment from ACT Labor to maintain the Safe Schools Program, with the ACT being a leader in Australia in making sure that we fight the scourge of homophobia and bigotry in our schools. The ACT has always been a social leader for Australia, with a 100 per cent renewables target that enjoys bipartisan support. This is something which I know Canberrans cherish. It is, therefore, surprising that it is the Canberra Liberals that are so socially regressive. Canberra is the most conservative state or territory branch of the Liberal Party in Australia. It is a branch which got rid of a relatively progressive Liberal senator, in Gary Humphries, and replaced him with one of the most conservative Liberal senators, in Zed Seselja.

In the ACT we have seen the savage impact that cuts by the Abbott and Turnbull governments have inflicted on Canberrans. We know community legal centres have an important role to play in assisting Canberrans who get into trouble, particularly as victims of financial scams or of family violence. But Malcolm Turnbull and George Brandis have cut $52 million from community legal centres, legal aid commissions and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services. That is why the Labor Party made a commitment at the last election that, had a Labor government been elected, we would have ensured that the Women's Legal Centre, Canberra Community Law and Street Law had the funds they needed to keep their doors open. We know that the impact of not having adequate legal presentation can be significant. One case study, from a woman named as Amanda, gave the instance of a young Aboriginal woman who had commenced receipt of youth allowance payments when she was 15 and had spent time in and out of refuges. It was only through help from an ACT community legal centre that she was able to have an unfair debt waived.

It is vital that we continue the investment approach here in the ACT. I hope that Canberrans will see the wisdom of that approach by supporting Andrew Barr's government to be re-elected on the weekend.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.