The issues - Terri Butler MP, Labor for Griffith

Malcolm Turnbull must respond to concerns about landline reliability under the NBN

Today's South-East Advertiser has reported on locals' concerns about being able to get help in a power outage, with landlines becoming less reliable once people have the NBN.

Read the story here.

Paul Keene and I held an NBN crisis meeting in Carina recently, and concerns were raised about landlines not working during power outages.

Towards the end of last year there was advice from NBN that neither the Fibre to the Node nor HFC network can be relied on during a power outage: 

“Equipment connected over the NBN network will not work during a power blackout. An exception is if you have Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) with battery backup, in which case you will get up to 5 hours of power provided the battery has been correctly maintained.”

In other words: Malcolm Turnbull's decision to drop full fibre-to-the-premises in favour of a mix of different technologies, including cable tv, has made landlines less reliable when the power goes out.

This is a huge worry for people with medical conditions, and for retirees and those on low incomes.

People with medical conditions, who have medical alarm devices, often depend on a working phone service through their landline.

The NBN co announced a subsidy for monitored alarms. But vulnerable users of non-monitored medical alarms continue to be excluded from the NBN medical alarm subsidy scheme. This should change. Monitored alarms are more expensive. People on low incomes - including elderly pensioners - shouldn't be forced to get rid of their lower-cost non-monitored alarms and pay for expensive monitored alarms. There should be support for people with unmonitored alarms to be able to get back-up batteries for when the power goes out.

But even that's not enough, given that the NBN co has admitted that batteries will only be reliable for people who are lucky enough to have fibre to the premises.

Malcolm Turnbull needs to tell Australians what he's going to do to make sure people can have access to a landline no matter what type of technology they are left with after the NBN is implemented in their area.

So far, the acting Minister has just told people to get a mobile phone as well. Not good enough.  

Shadow Minister for Health Catherine King has said that the risks facing users of non-monitored medical alarms on the NBN are not trivial.

"Labor is calling on the Government to clarify what assistance will be available for vulnerable Australians migrating to the NBN,” Ms King has said.

Universities are lining up to oppose the Turnbull government's cuts and fee hikes

The Turnbull government’s university funding cuts, fee hikes and demands that poorer people pay to help fund the higher education system have been under fire this week.

This week Vice-Chancellors including Prof Andrew Vann from CSU, Prof Greg Craven from the ACU, and Prof Michael Spence from the University of Sydney have been critical of the Turnbull government’s cuts to higher education funding.

Prof Vann said the cuts and fee hikes don’t pass the pub testand would affect regional students. 

Prof Spence described the reduction in the income threshold, at which students commence making payments, as a tax. 

And Prof Craven described the changes as a wrecking ball that would demolish one of the best university systems in the world.

These strong criticisms come as the Turnbull government wants to make students pay more, for less. 

Students will cop fee hikes, meaning they’ll have bigger debts. 

Read more

Internet speeds are languishing under the Turnbull government

The latest Akamai State of the Internet Reportis a damning indictment on the Turnbull’s mismanagement of the NBN – with Australia’s 2.1 million small businesses enduring amongst the poorest average internet speeds in the developed world.

At the 2013 election Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised that he could deliver his inferior version of the NBN faster and cheaper with three key commitments:

  • Minimum download speeds of 25 megabits per second to all Australians by the end of 2016.
  • A public expenditure limit of $29.5 billion.
  • A commitment that areas most under-served by existing telecommunications infrastructure would be prioritised in the rollout. (Source: Liberal policy document - Fast Broadband & an Affordable NB

The unfortunate reality is that under Malcolm Turnbull’s stewardship the NBN has failed to meet any of the benchmarks he set for it.

The Turnbull Government has only delivered average connection speeds of just 11.1Mbps to-date.

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The Turnbull government's $2.2 billion Medicare cut

Malcolm Turnbull’s attacks on Medicare continue, with new data confirming his Budget locks in a $2.2 billion cut to GPs, specialists and allied health services.
Data from the independent Parliamentary Budget Office shows the damage done to Medicare from the Liberals’ Medicare freeze is $3.2 billion over the next four years.
The damage is $735 million for the first year alone – that’s $735 million ripped out of the pockets of Australians when they are accessing the health care they need.
In comparison the Government has put in a paltry $9 million towards lifting the freeze next financial year – 1.2% of the funding they have ripped out.
This shows a $2.2 billion shortfall over the next four years, compared to the Government’s pathetic Budget attempt to reverse the cuts.

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My co-written essay on tax and inequality

The Fabians have published an essay that I co-wrote with Andrew Giles MP, Tax Settings and Inequality.

"As the dust begins to settle around what's left of the Turnbull government’s “Enterprise Tax Plan,” our nation needs a completely different conversation about taxation policy.

The decisions to be made about taxation - such as how much is to be raised, and by what means - affect much more than just finding the revenue to secure the provision of necessary services.

They are decisions about, and determined by, how we see ourselves, and one another. Decisions about taxation are decisions about the sort of future we, as Australians, see for our nation, and for ourselves.

Today, Australians are experiencing record levels of inequality. Unchecked, this will get worse, separating the experiences and opportunities of Australians, dampening all of our prospects.

We are on course for a future which promises a new Gilded Age for a lucky few, at the expense of confined and insecure lives for the many."

The Fabian Society has made the the full essay available for download here

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Labor will crack down on dodgy company directors

A Shorten Labor Government will act to protect employees and small businesses from dodgy phoenix activity through a package of reforms.

Labor will crack down on dodgy directors who engage in ‘phoenix activity’, where they deliberately burn companies in an attempt to avoid their obligations to employees, government and honest businesses

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I'm hosting a bipartisan event on Venture Capital

I am a co-convener of a Parliamentary group on innovation and enterprise. It's a bipartisan group. This June we're hosting an event to launch The Venture Capital Effect: a report on the industry's impact on the economy.

AVCAL has produced a comprehensive report on the evolving Venture Capital industry in Australia. This report looks at its beginnings, its benefits, and the future of this important industry as a supporter of innovation and growth across our economy.

Launching the report will be Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, and the Hon Ed Husic MP, Shadow Minister for Employment Services, Workforce Participation and Future of Work, and Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy. The Report will be presented by AVCAL CEO Yasser El-Ansary.

Find out more and reserve tickets here. There's no charge, and it's open to the public, but it's in Canberra and places are limited.


Kindy funding extension of only one year is not good enough

Sign the petition here.

Like a lot of people, I've been campaigning to put pressure on the government to extend their commitment to kindy funding.

At the moment the Universal Access kindy funding is due to run out at the end of this year. That's the funding that goes to the states, to cover a third of the cost of giving pre-school age kids access to fifteen hours of teaching a week.

Alongside many others, I've called on the Turnbull government Minister, Senator Birmingham, to extend the funding. 

He has finally caved and agreed to extend the funding beyond 2017 - but by only one year.

That means the funding is now scheduled to run out at the end of 2018.

I don't think this is good enough.

Enough is enough. We need Cross River Rail!


It is time for the Turnbull government to end the delay and commit, once and for all, to funding Cross River Rail.

Infrastructure investment can contribute to economic growth and can contribute to job creation.

Yet Labor is worried that next week’s Budget will potentially see a decline rather than an increase in infrastructure investment.

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