NBN Deja Vu



MONDAY, 26 MAY 2014


I have a strange sense of Déjà vu – it feels like we were here in the same place debating the same motion this time last week.

If the Liberal Party want to talk about their second-rate NBN, if they want another mauling from the Labor Party about what they are doing and the mistakes that they are making on the NBN, then we are very happy to oblige.

That is because the people of Australia do not want a second-rate NBN, they want the real NBN.

In the Member for Banks’ electorate that is what they are now not going to get. Hurstville, Peakhurst, Padstow or Lugarno are places that would have got fibre to the home; now they are going to miss out.

There are new developments in places like Hurstville, Riverwood and Kingsgrove that have got fibre to the home, but all around those areas are places where people live and need the real NBN and they are going to miss out. Don’t worry, we will be very happy, come Election Day, to tell them all about it.

We will also tell them about the broken promises of this government.

I have spoken before about the promise the Prime Minister made that by 2016 everyone would have access to 25 megabits per second. But just recently I came across this, which is Tony Abbott’s letter to the Australian people published on Election Day on news.com.au at 9.11 pm.

In that letter he talks about being a “no surprises, no excuses” government. That has not worked out too well. He talks about being a government that “says what it means and does what it says”. That has not really happened. And then there is this beauty: “I want our NBN to be rolled out within three years and Malcolm Turnbull is the right person to make this happen.”

Well, that did not last long. It did not last three years. It did not last three months. It was December last year when they broke that promise.

But, interestingly, when I checked on the Liberal Party’s website this morning and that promise is still on the Liberal Party website. This is just bizarre. They broke this promise six months ago but they are still promising 25 megabits per second by 2016. They are that proud of their broken promises they are publishing them on their website!

The Minister, apart from promising 25 megabits per second by 2016, also promised that his negotiations with Telstra would be quick. How is that going? It is now nine months since the election this week and there is still no sign of an agreement, and here is the reason: the government wants to buy the copper and Telstra does not want to sell it.

The head of Telstra recently said they want to keep ownership of the copper network.

The chairman of NBN, Ziggy Switkowski, said earlier this year that he thinks ownership of the copper network should be transferred to them.

That is despite the fact that advice to the Minister when he came to office late last year said that the government purchasing the copper would be “a very high risk approach” and that instead they should lease the copper or have a managed service.

Whoever wins this fight, whether it is the government or whether it is Telstra, there is one group people who will lose out, and that is the Australian people because they will end up with an ageing copper network rather than fibre.

The NBN is still not being rolled out fast enough. I have been critical of our government for not rolling it out fast enough and I make the same criticism of this government.

In October last year the Minister was in Blacktown and he said that 450,000 premises would be passed by fibre by the end of this month, by the end of June, and he is not going to meet that target.

He also said a few things in Parliament last week. He said that the government’s second-rate NBN would be about $30 billion less expensive for taxpayers. That is not right, and I said last week the difference in the cost to taxpayers between their model and ours is less than $1 billion. The Minister disputes this. Who is right? Respected journalist Renai LeMay looked at this issue last week, and what was his verdict? He said: “The evidence shows that Clare is correct.”

So if the Liberal Party wants to debate the NBN then we say bring it on. You have broken promises that are still on your website. You have negotiations with Telstra that have not been quick. You have a fight between Telstra and the government on who owns the copper. Construction is still too slow and in places like the Member’s electorate of Banks, in places like Padstow and Peakhurst, they are going to miss out on the real NBN and get a second-rate NBN instead.

So keep moving motions like this. Go right ahead.