Last week they were at each other’s throats over mobile phone black spots. This week, the major parties have turned their attention to broadband, or what passes for that on the NSW north coast.
During the current period of government, Australia has dropped from having 30th fastest internet speed in the world to the 60th. While a few 4G towers have been erected here and there to address black spots in the bush, what that means for people in our regional towns is that nothing has changed.
On the weekend Labor’s candidate for Page, Janelle Saffin visited the Ley family in Lismore, together with Labor’s regional communications spokesperson Stephen Jones, to announce they would be returning to Kevin Rudd’s policy of fibre to the home.
They said an incoming Shorten Labor government would direct NBN Co. to prioritise the rollout of Fibre-to-the-Premises NBN to homes and businesses across the electorate of Page, adding that if the Coalition was returned ‘not one home or business’ in Page would get ‘Malcolm Turnbull’s second rate fibre-to-the-node network by 2016 as initially promised.’
Janelle Saffin said that there was a lot of dissatisfaction in the region about ‘Turnbull’s flawed NBN.’
‘Stephen and I spoke to Keda Ley and her family today to find out why the NBN matters so much to them,’ Ms Saffin said.
‘She is a mum of three who works and studies from home and she needs a strong, reliable internet connection to make this happen,’ she added.
‘There are families just like the Ley family across the region; in the 21st century they need first-rate internet services.
‘Of course it isn’t just households who stand to benefit from Labor’s plan. Small business owners can’t compete if they are constantly being held back by an inferior broadband connection.
‘The NBN build has not even started in Grafton, Lismore, Alstonville, Casino, Evans Head, Woolgoolga and Yamba. These areas deserve better and Labor will deliver for them.
‘The people of Lismore have been forgotten by the Liberals. Only Labor will fix Malcolm Turnbull’s mess and deliver the vital infrastructure of the 21st century to Lismore,’ Ms Saffin said.
But the Nationals’ sitting member in Page, Kevin Hogan, quickly issued a media release attempting to refute Labor’s claims.
He said the Coalition is delivering NBN to the north coast ‘faster and cheaper than under the Labor plan.’
‘Fibre-to-the-node is 80 per cent as fast as fibre-to-the home-and is only 40 per cent of the cost,’ he said.
‘Fibre-to-the-node is being rolled out quicker than fibre-to-the home would be. It is also cheaper to the consumer due to the decreased costs.
‘NBN will be rolled out across our communities during 2017 – three years before the NBN is rolled out nationally.
‘There is no difference between our policy and that of the opposition in regards to fixed wireless and satellite for isolated communities. The footprint is the same for both models,’ Mr Hogan said.
More stories on the 2016 federal election
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My fearless prediction is that the coalition will end up with between 76 to 78 seats in the House of Representatives, a thin but decisive majority. But this is not the way it was meant to be.
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Incumbent northern rivers MPs Kevin Hogan (Page, Nationals) and Justine Elliot (Richmond, Labor) have retained their seats after a knife-edge federal election result which could see a hung parliament.
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