The member for Petrie is completely right: the NBN is about people. Last week Labor's spokesperson on communications, Stephen Jones, the member for Whitlam, joined me in my electorate of Paterson to meet with real, everyday people who are having problems—it is not actually problems that they are having; they are going through a nightmare. They told us about this second-rate National Broadband Network. Stephen and I visited the Early Links Inclusion Support Service, a not-for-profit doing critical work with children with disabilities and high needs in my community in the suburb of Ashtonfield. It is a support service that cares for children with very high disabilities. They operate from a council owned building. They are struggling with the most basic of internet needs.
When parents phone to make an appointment for their children, they cannot get onto the internet to make an appointment. When they try to access files for the children, they cannot get them. When they try to report for the NDIS, which is a whole world of pain that I will not go into now, they cannot get onto the internet to do it. So they divert precious resources, money, to buy dongles so they can do this basic work.
Here is where the injury and the insult really come together. They have a box on the wall which should connect them to the NBN. It is not connected. What is that about? It is absolutely disgusting. We have looked at the box. We had a photograph taken with it. That is all you can do. It is not useful. It is not connecting anyone to anything. It is a pretty little prop box on the wall.
A staff member at this establishment—a single mum; she is a fantastic person who does great work for Early Links—told me that she spends $300 a month on mobile broadband for her two teenagers to do their high school work because they cannot even get ADSL in her part of Thornton. She spends $300 a month. I have been a member for only a short time but I can tell you that my office is inundated every day with complaints. Chris Lindus from Aberglasslyn said that the NBN website says that the address is ready to connect but all of the internet service providers say that the property is not ready to connect.
Some neighbours are able to connect but not Chris, and he said that he is currently on very slow ADSL. What about Jacquie Esder, also from Aberglasslyn? She has the same story as Chris. However, she has been told by NBN Co that they only have to have 90 per cent of the suburb ready before they can declare that it is actually ready for service. So apparently 90 per cent is okay—do not worry about the other 10 per cent! They just say, 'Yes, it's a little bit of froth and bubble there.' What about poor old Angela Niznik from Chisholm? She has no access to the NBN at all, and it is not on the build plan. The other half of the suburb is already connected. Talk about a digital divide!
Earlier in the day the member for Whitlam and I went to Fern Bay and Fullerton Cove. They cannot get mobile service there, even though they are only 10 kilometres from Newcastle, Australia's seventh largest city. One resident in the gorgeous over-55's development that we visited said that she can sometimes get one bar of signal if she stands on the kitchen sink and holds the phone above the venetians, but her husband has a dodgy hip and he has had to stop doing it. Yes, just get up on the sink—she will be apples!
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Not a day goes by when we are not fielding complaint after complaint about this, and my office is not the only one. Many people go to Facebook and all the sites to have a whinge about it, and no wonder. When we refer the complaints to NBN Co they are obliging, but they can only follow their riding instructions. They are constrained. Of course they are constrained. Like attracts like. The government are like copper. They bend under pressure, they melt when the heat is on and they have lost their lustre quickly. This is a patch-up. This is a stitch-up of all Australians. I say to you that the government talk innovation but only deliver frustration.