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Editor (Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun),
Politicians get remembered for lots of things… some good, some bad.  As Luke Hartsuyker enters the twilight of his career, it is becoming clear that he will leave two scars on the northern end of the federal electorate of Cowper.
First, as I predicted in May, the government looks like it is taking the ‘El Cheapo’ option on the Coffs Harbour Bypass, preferring huge canyons or trenches ahead of tunnels, destroying valuable nature and the amenity of the area. We get one chance to do the Coffs Harbour Bypass or ring road road, as some call it, right but the government looks like it is going the cheap option. This is unsound, shortsighted and wrong.
Second, there’s the farce that is the roll-out of the National Broadband Network in Bellingen. I would excuse the nine month delay in roll-out in Bellingen, if they did it right. But they’re not, they’re now going for there ‘El Cheapo’ option again. In Bellingen, about 80 per cent of the place will get fibre-to-the-curb and the other 20 per cent will be left in the ‘digital wilderness’ on the nobbled, slow and unreliable Fixed Wireless (FW). There is no logical reason for this. It is just penny-pinching by the government. Again, if it is going to be done, it should be done once, right and now.
Sure there’s only a certain amount of money but it comes back to priorities. Is this government’s priority the ‘on hold’ $80 billion in tax cuts for big business, including $17 billion for the banks, or doing things like the Coffs Harbour Bypass and Bellingen NBN roll-out right? It appears the former.
Luke Hartsuyker is making all sorts of ridiculous statements defending the dodgy NBN roll-out in Bellingen. And he’s conning us, indeed lying. His policy demonstrates  just how out of touch The Nationals are on fairness, opportunity and the future. It will be interesting to see if the new National Party candidate shares his views. If they do, they should cop the full wrath of the electorate.
Mr Hartsuyker has taken to calling NBN “a company” as to distance the government from the decisions it makes. He says the dodgy roll-out is NBN’s issue and nothing to do with the government. What rubbish. NBN is wholly owned by the Commonwealth of Australia as a Government Business Enterprise (GBE), incorporated under the Corporations Act 2001 and operated in accordance with the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). The government directs NBN.
He was asked if promised speeds of 100/40Mbps would be available to all of Bellingen. He responded: “The undertaking to provide 100/40Mbps was made by NBN, but that product was subsequently withdrawn by the company because of the cost. The Coalition’s promise is for minimum speeds of 25Mbps”. Really, Luke, really? So he is standing National Party’s 25 Mbps policy. The truth is, it is a dud. It is not future proof and not suitable for many small businesses and residential 4k television.
He was also asked if it was acceptable to business and consumers in the Sunset and Hospital Hill estates to be charged $20,000 to get a service that is supplied free to neighbours 100m away? He responded: “No, and that is not the case. A connection capable of meeting the minimum standards set for the NBN is free. However, if a potential customer wants to seek a technology upgrade from NBN to achieve higher speeds, then they will need to make arrangements with NBN and pay for that. The price is subject to a range of variables”. Well, that’s a lie. It is the case. If you live in one of the FW areas in urban Bellingen (capable of a theoretical maximum of 50 Mbps) but you want or need a reliable 100 Mbps speed as other areas in Bellingen on fibre will get, you do have to pay thousands of dollars for a service provided free to neighbours 100 metres away.
Mr Hartsuyker’s position on the NBN in Bellingen is pathetic. Mr Hartsuyker should be ashamed of himself, his policy, his party and his government.
NBN’s contractors are active in Bellingen now. The Government should direct NBN Co to do a rollout of FTTC to the entire urban area of Bellingen and not leave twenty per cent of the community in the digital wilderness on Fixed Wirless.
Andrew Woodward
Labor Candidate for Cowper

Updated: 19 September 2018