It is interesting to listen to the member for Gilmore and her very negative outlook on the world, I must say, as she leaves the chamber. Towards the end of her speech, she rounded on the satellite service, saying it was second-rate and substandard. It was interesting because my opening remarks were going to be a little bit about the history of the NBN. It originally was designed of course by Kevin Rudd on the back of an envelope to be built for $4 billion, and he immediately hoovered $2 billion up out of the national Future Fund for communications in the regions. That said, former minister for communications Malcolm Turnbull said that we would have never built a system like this but we were bequeathed it by the former government.
I was going to say in relation to the member for Gilmore’s remarks that I said at the time that the smartest thing that the Labor regime did was order two new satellites, because there will always be parts of Australia that will never be reached by a fibre optic cable. I say to the member for Gilmore, ‘Come and have a look at my electorate, and you will understand how important the satellite service is.’ In fact, it’s working very well. Initially with the Sky Muster satellite my office was fielding quite a number of complaints. There were teething issues. When you roll out new technology of any type it takes a while to knock the bugs out of it. They had to reprogram some of the software. ‘Beam me up, Scotty.’ We fixed up the satellites and away we went. Then we found that we have more capacity than we need. Perhaps that was because of the insight of the former Labor regime. They should take credit for it. Now we’ve been able to increase the size of packages available to homes and, through Sky Muster Plus, we’ve been able to increase the speeds to businesses that require greater input.
I’m pleased to announce that just this afternoon the Ramsey household at Buckleboo became consumers of Sky Muster. We’ve taken a little while to get ourselves hooked up. My wife today has been dealing with these issues. She called me about half an hour ago to say, ‘I’m on.’ I said, ‘How’s it going?’ She said, ‘Hang on, I’ll check some sites. It’s very good. It’s far better than what we’ve had.’ We had been using a mobile phone service with a tall aerial on our house and a Telstra smart aerial fitted inside. It worked better than the old landline system, but this is streets ahead again. A download speed of 25 megabits is pretty good at the Ramsey household.
But there are other things that we’ve been doing for regional communications. Those opposite might listen to this. We are investing in the mobile phone network. This has been a really serious job for this government. Only this side of the chamber has invested in the mobile phone network in regional Australia. More than 800 towers have come about as a consequence of the Mobile Black Spot Program. It is a fantastic outcome. There’s more to come. There are another two rounds. In my own electorate I think about 30 new towers have been built under the program. Of course I’m still getting complaints from people who are in-between. I understand that, but there is an economic imperative when you build mobile phone towers to have some kind of return on them. The government’s Mobile Black Spot Program does provide the financial incentive.
A number of new technologies are being developed. Small cells are now allowing for backfill in some of these regions. I think the network will keep getting better. With the launch of the new low-orbiting satellites by Southern Launch from just near Port Lincoln, with any kind of luck we will see another range of communication satellites come into being over the next five or 10 years. All these things are changing every day as technology does. It’s important that we adapt as it comes along. But I have to say that, when I look back from where we are now to when we came to government, I see that we have made enormous strides, whether it be in mobile phone technology or with the rollout of the NBN network. I point out that my electorate of Grey is over 99 per cent enabled—over 99 per cent are ready to connect—and we’ve had about 50 per cent connect at this stage. It will obviously take a little time, but we’ll get over that