Transcript - Radio Interview - 5MU FM SA Today with Jennie Lenman

15 December 2021

SUBJECTS: Labor’s NBN plan; recent work in Murray Bridge.
JENNIE LENMAN, HOST: You're on 5MU with the best songs of all time, Labor has announced a $2.4 billion plan to expand fibre to the home access to bring our NBN up to speed globally. Federal Senator Marielle Smith for South Australia is advocating for Murray Bridge to be one of the locations for the expansion. She joins me now in the studio to discuss. Hi, Marielle.
LENMAN: Good to have you with us. Is this why you're in town today?
SMITH: Look, I'm in Murray Bridge regularly actually so as a Senator for South Australia, I represent the whole state, so I try and get to Murray Bridge every few weeks or at least every month. So this is part of my regular time in the town. But I'm out here today speaking about our plans to improve the NBN. Over the last couple of years since I've been a Senator, many residents of Murray Bridge and regional South Australia more broadly, have raised with me the importance of having higher broadband speeds. They need this to make sure that their businesses are more competitive. They need this to make sure that the work they do within their homes, the school work, education has access to those high speeds and also in healthcare settings, it's really important. Locals have been telling me for a long time they want to see faster speeds on the NBN and I'm very excited that Labor's announced a plan which will help deliver this.
LENMAN: So tell us more about it.
SMITH: So we've announced a $2.4 billion plan. This is about expanding fibre to the home as opposed to fibre to the node. Our plan will give households and businesses choice in regional Australia and outer suburban Australia. It's about making sure that if homes or small businesses could benefit from higher speeds, they're able to select to have fibre to the home. If they're happy with their current plans and their current arrangements, there's no compulsory element to it. They don't have to change. But to be a 21st century economy, to make sure we're taking full advantage of all the benefits that great technology can bring to our economy, it's really important that we have access to these higher speeds.
LENMAN: How do we compare globally at the moment with our access to the internet?
SMITH: Look it's not great. We're 58th in the world in terms of internet speeds. Now, I would like us to have a better ambition in Australia to be one of the leaders in this space. We know that our economy and the global economy indeed going forward, will depend on having good quality, high quality, fast access to internet, to NBN. We need this to make sure that our businesses can be competitive. We need this to make sure that education can be competitive, that our health care systems are functioning as best they can for regional South Australians. So I think it's really important and at the moment, Australia is falling behind.
LENMAN: Now, I remember when the NBN was originally pitched by Labor, this was the proposal that it would be going fibre to the home as opposed to what is it? Fibre to the node? Right, so in order to implement these changes, if Labor were to get in, would it be a matter of tearing up any infrastructure? Would it be costly? What would be involved?
SMITH: Yeah look the cost is $2.4 billion. That's the cost we’ve estimated and there'll, of course, be a process to work out which communities and which towns will benefit from this policy. And I, as always, will be a fierce advocate for Murray Bridge in that. But really, what we're trying to do here is fix what has been an absolute mess for the NBN under the Liberal government. They promised to do the NBN for $29.5 billion dollars. The cost blow out time and time again to now something like $57 billion. I want to make sure that when we're investing significant public money into the NBN, that homes and businesses in regional South Australia are actually seeing the benefits of that and they're able to compete. This is an economic policy as much as anything and I think it's really important to our future in South Australia.
LENMAN: With me at the moment in studio is Labor Senator Marielle Smith. You've visited Murray Bridge, as you mentioned earlier quite a few times recently. What are some issues that members of the community are raising with you that are important to them?
SMITH: A lot of families in Murray Bridge have been doing it really tough over the past couple of years, particularly during the Pandemic. I know a lot of small businesses have found that really difficult. In fact, I was at the local cinema today and I know they've been doing it really tough. So I encourage your listeners if they're wanting to see a film over the summer, to head local, to jump off Netflix and go see a film in real life because they've been doing it really tough. And look, a lot of the service organisations as well, groups like Food Bank and Vinnies who I visited a few weeks ago. You know, the people that they help and serve have been doing it really tough in Murray Bridge.So if there's any capacity in your listeners homes to give to these organisations and help support the work of Foodbank and Vinnies, I think that would be fantastic. It's been a tough few years for everyone in South Australia. I'm really hopeful of a better year ahead, but that means making sure that we support those who have been doing it especially hard.
LENMAN: Are there any other election issues that Labor is running at the moment that it's particularly something that you are really passionate about, that you'd like to see change?
SMITH: Yeah look, as I travel around the state, the issue raised with me more than any other policy issue, taking COVID aside, is the need for strong action on climate change. South Australians, particularly in our regional areas know it's not actually a choice to act strongly on climate change. It's absolutely essential that we put in the hard work, the hard policy work and keep up with the rest of the world in this space and be ambitious because the economic opportunities of the future will be in renewable energy. That's where the big opportunities are and Australia needs to get ahead of the pack and make sure that we stand to benefit from the investment renewable energy can bring to our state. It's also really important for us in terms of our environment. Of course, South Australians know that we're seeing longer and hotter summers. We're seeing more dangerous bushfire seasons. Action on climate change is urgent. And I'm really proud that Labor will be taking strong action on climate change after the next election.
LENMAN: And Senator Smith, I hear while you've been in Murray Bridge, you've sponsored a new award at the high school?
SMITH: Yes. I love Murray Bridge High School, I try and visit it as much as I can and this year, I was absolutely delighted to sponsor the inaugural School Values Award. A young woman called Eliza Davis won that award this year, but it's just a way of recognising some of the amazing students which come through that high school. It's an incredible school. You would be aware that the principal recently won quite a significant award for her work there. There's some new infrastructure being opened up at the school. So, yeah, it was a really exciting thing to be a part of, and I'll be sponsoring that in the years ahead as well.
LENMAN: Great – do you know much about Eliza and why she won?
SMITH: Yes, she actually won a couple of awards. Eliza's a very talented student and also one of the leadership student leadership team members. But it was for demonstrating the exemplary values of Murray Beach High School. So she was chosen by the school and I didn't get to vote. I just sponsored the award, but a very worthy winner, Eliza.
LENMAN: And your Christmas cards that you're sending out, like, all good pollies this year, they feature the work of some local talent right here?
SMITH: Yes this year, actually, a young woman named Peyton, a four year old girl from Murray Bridge kindergarten, is the artist featured on my Christmas card heading out across South Australia this year, which is very exciting. So I had a chance to pop in and to see Peyton give her a little prize to thank her for her contribution to that card. So if you see a card in your letter box from me and that's Peyton's beautiful work on the front and I would just put your listeners out, there are many, many love hearts drawn on that card to represent all the love Peyton feels at Christmas time, which I just thought was absolutely gorgeous.
LENMAN: Oh, that's really nice. Thank you so much for joining me in the studio today Senator Marielle Smith.
SMITH: Thank you, Jennie and have a Merry Christmas.