HUNTER VALLEY NEWS COLUMN 28 NOVEMBER 2015

Last week NBN released its 3 year rollout plan that included many local towns including Branxton, Greta, Cessnock, Bellbird, Denman, Kandos, Rylstone, Kurri Kurri, Maitland, Murrurundi, Muswellbrook, Scone and Singleton.  

NBN promises to connect more than half the country to the NBN in just two years – but only after the next election. This financial year NBN says it will connect 953,000 homes and business to the NBN in the fixed line footprint. In the next two financial years this ramps up to 6.2 million homes and businesses connected.

Malcolm Turnbull promised that his second rate version of the National Broadband Network would be rolled out faster and cheaper. He promised his second rate NBN would be built for $29.5 billion—that cost has almost doubled to $56 billion. He also promised that his second rate NBN would be rolled out to all homes and businesses by the end of 2016—that’s now more than doubled to 7 years.

I guess time will tell if this rollout plan is achievable.

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The China Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) passed the Parliament last week.  I’m calling it ChAFTA Plus because it’s a better outcome than the one Tony Abbott wanted passed.

Of course despite its name, ChAFTA is not really a free trade agreement.  Rather, it is a preferential trade agreement.  That is, it provides Australia with lower tariff barriers than some of our competitors or indeed, now puts us on an equal footing with competitors who struck deals earlier than us.  This last point is an important one.  For example, for some years now the New Zealand dairy industry has been able to export to China at lower tariffs than Australia.  That made it hard for us to compete.

There is no doubt that the agreement is a good thing for the Australian economy and particularly good for agriculture.  But while the agreement reached was good for some, it was not good for everyone.  That's because there were no guarantees that Australians would be offered the job opportunities first.

It's not the Australian way to accept a deal which is good for some but hurts others.  Labor insisted on changes to the arrangements and I'm delighted Malcolm Turnbull accepted them.  The result is a very good one for Australia.

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