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PQ 12 Broadband, Ultra-fast and Rural—Progress

12. Broadband, Ultra-fast and Rural—Progress

[Sitting date: 31 July 2014. Volume:700;Page:13. Text is subject to correction.]


12. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister for Communications and Information Technology : What percentage of the 1,592,000 target households for both the Government-subsidised rural and urban broadband programmes have actually connected and why are the figures so low?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister for Communications and Information Technology : I am surprised that the member has gone on to judge them as being low before hearing the answer, but, nevertheless, of the estimated 747,000 end-users who can now receive either package, the answer is 13 percent. Of the remaining end-users who have not had it built out to them yet, the answer is, weirdly enough, zero.

Clare Curran : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question was a simple question. It was a question on notice. It asked for two percentage figures for the target households—these are the households able to connect. It asked what the number of households actually connected is, and it asked for two percentage figures.

Mr SPEAKER : The Minister has given two percentages. He gave 13 percent for those who are able to connect at this stage and zero for those who are not, so he has given two percentage figures. I think the best way forward is I will allow the member an additional supplementary question.

Clare Curran : Why are there no figures for the actual number of people living in rural New Zealand who are connected to the taxpayer-funded rural broadband programme, which she has touted as being the envy of other countries but which is clearly failing to deliver?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : There are numbers. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : I did not—[Interruption] Order! I actually did not hear the answer. Could the Minister repeat the answer.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Well, the member asked why there were not any figures, and I said there are figures.

Clare Curran : What is the percentage figure for the number of people connected to rural broadband?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I thank the member for her question. The rate of uptake for the rural broadband package fixed line is 22.6 percent, which is about 57,000 rural homes and businesses, while the wireless Rural Broadband Initiative has approximately 6,000 end-users. We cannot give exact percentages for each component as there are some that have a crossover of both fixed line and wireless coverage areas, but that gives the member a reasonable estimation.

Grant Robertson : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am reluctant to do this on the last day, but we have had the Minister deliberately fudge the answer to a primary question, making a member use three supplementary questions to then get information that he actually should have given out in the primary question or in either of the first two supplementary questions. Unfortunately, this has been the pattern of Mr Joyce throughout this sitting time. It is not fair for members to have to use supplementary questions in that way.

Hon Gerry Brownlee : The first question was about percentages. She asked for two percentages; two percentages were given. The second was about whether numbers were available; the answer was yes, they are available. The third question got to the point, and there was a very clear answer once the member got to the point. It is not the Minister’s job to pre-empt what it is that people might particularly want if their question does not indicate that.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! I do not need further assistance. I have listened very carefully to the questions and to the answers, and my job is to address whether the questions have been addressed. I do not have to judge the quality of the answers; it is for the members in this House and the public to judge the quality. In one case I thought there was a question about whether it had been satisfactorily addressed. I did what I often do and gave an additional supplementary question. I think that that was the way forward. So the member Clare Curran still has, I think, two supplementary questions to use.

Clare Curran : How can she claim that when after 6 years, and where her Government’s investment in broadband infrastructure was touted as the big flagship programme in 2008, only 2 percent of New Zealanders in the target households have connected to ultra-fast broadband, and a report out last week from the Commerce Commission showed that the speed of rural broadband has significantly declined in the last 2 years?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The member is simply wrong. She is simply wrong. The reality of it is that the rate of uptake for the ultra-fast broadband—

Grant Robertson : Patronising. Arrogant.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Be quiet, Mr Robertson, and just listen for a minute. The rate of uptake for the ultra-fast broadband is at the end of June for end-users who are able to connect—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! We could be here for a long time to finish question time unless we get a bit of cooperation.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Again, the rate of uptake for the ultra-fast broadband as at the end of June for end-users who are able to connect is 7.6 percent, which is 39,510 end-users. That is a 44 percent increase on the number of connections on the previous quarter, which is an excellent result.

Mr SPEAKER : Before I call the member, the member has two further supplementary questions.

Clare Curran : I seek leave to table two documents, including the last quarterly figures for ultra-fast broadband uptake, where it shows that—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I do not need to know any further information than that. I just need to know the source of the document.

Clare Curran : It is a quarterly update document from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! This is easily resolved on the basis that they may be difficult for members to obtain. I will put the leave and the House can decide. Leave is sought to table those two documents. Is there any objection?

Clare Curran : That is only one document.

Mr SPEAKER : Sorry, I apologise. Leave is sought to table one document. Is there any objection? There is.

Clare Curran : Point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : A further point of order.

Clare Curran : Can I table another document? I seek leave to table another document.

Mr SPEAKER : If the member briefly describes it and includes the source, I will put the leave.

Clare Curran : It is a report on rural broadband speeds going backwards, produced last week by TrueNet for the Commerce Commission.

Mr SPEAKER : I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular report. Is there any objection? There is.

Clare Curran : What does she say to the hundreds of communities in New Zealand who experience substandard, slow broadband, are treated like second-class citizens to their urban cousins, and cannot either afford or get access to anything better—communities such as Outram and Karitane, near Dunedin; Ōtaki, north of Wellington; Waverley, near Wanganui; Haast, Hokitika; and Westport on the West Coast, to name just a few? Has not her Government just abandoned these communities?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I did not know we were doing speeches. The point of this is that the member is simply wrong again. The member is simply wrong again. Again, I tell her that the rate of uptake for improved rural broadband is 22.6 percent, about 57,000 rural homes and businesses, and the roll-out continues. If I could be helpful to the member, and I genuinely mean this, the answers I was giving her earlier are actually more up-to-date information than is publicly available, but she does not seem to want to get the answer to the question at question time.

Clare Curran : Why is it that after 6 years in Government more than one in five New Zealanders do not have regular access to the internet, and 62,000 households with school-aged children do not have access to the internet at home; why is the digital divide increasing under her Government and becoming a new measure of poverty?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I sense another crisis coming on. It is late in the term, but I suspect a crisis. This Government has done a very good job of lifting connectivity for New Zealanders on the internet and with broadband. This Government has achieved something that has not been achieved anywhere else in the world, which is the progressive roll-out of ultra-fast broadband to a population density that is fairly small. We have achieved a connection rate already of 7.6 percent, which is exactly on target. We are rolling out a rural broadband initiative, which both that member and her party have opposed all the way through.

David Shearer : I would like to seek leave to table a document that is the credit card statement of Murray McCully from 22 May, including a charge for internet connection to receive a note he should have been able to receive on the Malaysian diplomat case.

Mr SPEAKER : Leave is sought to table that particular information.

Hon Gerry Brownlee : It doesn’t actually say that.

Mr SPEAKER : Well, if the member was misleading the House, that is a very serious offence—[Interruption]. Order! I am putting the leave. It is over to the House as to whether it wants to see that document tabled. Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

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