MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, PARLIAMENT HOUSE
WEDNESDAY, 10 FEBRUARY 2016
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Malcolm Turnbull has had one job for the last two and a half years and that is to build the NBN, and he has made a mess of it. Any objective analysis is that he has made a mess of it. Almost everything he has promised he would do on the NBN he has failed to deliver. Now, almost every week, we have more evidence of the mess that he has made with the building of his second-rate NBN.
I give you just three examples. The first and the worst is the massive blow-out in cost. Malcolm Turnbull said before the last election that he could build a slower second-rate NBN for $29.5 billion. We now know that that has blown out to as much as $56 billion. It has blown out by almost 100 per cent. This is a man who says, ‘I’ve got business experience. I used to be a merchant banker. I’ve got the skills to do the job.’ He has blown the budget on the NBN by almost 100 per cent. If this were anybody else, they would have got the sack, but not this man—he was promoted.
The second example of the failure and the mess on the NBN is time – the massive blow-out in the time it is going to take to build the NBN. Malcolm Turnbull promised before the last election that everyone would have access to the NBN this year, 2016. That is now not going to happen. How many people do you think will get the NBN this year? It is not 100 per cent, it is not 50 per cent or 40 or 30 or 20 per cent. As we stand here today, less than 15 per cent of the country has access to the NBN. Another massive broken promise, another massive fail by this Prime Minister who deceived the people of Australia at the last election by promising that everyone would get access to the NBN this year. If you are listening to this or watching this and you are still buffering, then blame the Prime Minister because he promised you would have access to the NBN this year. In fact, the former Prime Minister went one step further. He issued an open letter to the people of Australia on election night and he said this:
I want our NBN to be rolled out within three years and Malcolm Turnbull is the right person to make this happen.
Well, it seems the former Prime Minister was wrong to trust Malcolm Turnbull on this and a lot of other things.
I am indebted to the member for Franklin because she has brought to my attention another document which is even more brazen. It is called ‘The Coalition’s economic growth plan for Tasmania’. This doesn’t promise that everyone would get access to the NBN by 2016. This says on page 23:
The rollout of the NBN under the Coalition will be complete in Tasmania by the end of 2015.
The last time I checked the calendar it was 2016, and guess what? It has not been built in Tasmania. In fact, not one person in Tasmania has been switched on to their second-rate copper NBN yet. The people of Tasmania, just like people right across the country, have been duped by this Prime Minister and this deceitful government.
The third example is copper and the massive blow-out in the cost of fixing the copper. Late last year I told the parliament that we had found out in Estimates that the government was buying 2,000 kilometres, two million metres of new copper to build their second-rate NBN – enough copper to link Australia to New Zealand. What we have fond out now is that that is the tip of the iceberg. It is not two million metres. We have now found out from a question on notice that the government are planning to buy eight and a half million metres of copper. Just to put that into perspective, that is enough copper to connect Brisbane to Beijing or Perth to Pakistan or Kalgoorlie to Kuala Lumpur – and back. That is how much new copper they have to buy to make this second-rate network work.
But that is not the worst of it because through a leaked document that was revealed in the press late last year it has also now been revealed that the cost of fixing the second-rate copper network has blown out by over 1,000 per cent. When the strategic review came out in December 2013, I was scolded by the now Prime Minister for saying he had not properly allowed enough money to fix the copper. He said in this House, opposite me, that:
The critics of the coalition’s approach to broadband have claimed that the coalition has not paid attention to the need for remediation of the existing copper plant … As honourable members will see when studying this report, that matter has been taken most carefully into account … and very conservative assumptions have been taken.
He didn’t tell us then what those ‘conservative assumptions’ were but, thanks to this leaked document, we know that then when they released the strategic review they assumed that it would cost $55 million to fix Telstra’s old copper network to make their second-rate NBN work. What we also know from this document is that it is not going to cost $55 million; it is now going to cost $641 million. In other words, it is a blow-out of more than 1,000 per cent. By any objective analysis, this is a massive mess and the Prime Minister has no-one else to blame for this but himself.
And now in estimates last night it was revealed that there are even more problems. In the first places where they are now switching on their second-rate copper NBN, guess what? It is not working. It is not working properly. Instead of getting the faster broadband that they were promised, people are now getting slower broadband services than they were getting with ADSL.
Here are just a couple of examples. Max Taylor from Gorokan recently switched over from ADSL to fibre to the node. He used to get eight megabits per second. Now he is getting as low as three megabits per second. That is slower than his old ADSL. Here is another one. Laurence Alderton from Belmont says and I quote:
‘I have been connected to the NBN for two days with TPG’s 25 megabits plan. What a joke! Peak-time download speeds of around four megabits—that is less than my old ADSL2.’
Here is another one. Jan Rigo’s elderly parents live in Bundaberg have now gone from 12 megabits per second with ADSL down to as low as two megabits per second and as a result, these elderly people can no longer Skype their children and grandchildren in the UAE and Korea. We have lots more stories like this. They are flooding in to affected electorate offices, both Labor and Coalition. It is a right royal stuff-up and more evidence of the mess that this Prime Minister has made of the NBN. He promised people faster broadband speeds, in fact, they are getting the reverse. The boss of NBN last night in estimates admitted, and I am quoting him here:
‘I am certain these problems are real.’
In a minute we are going to hear from the government and they are going to crow about what a fabulous job they have done on the NBN. My response to that is fix this mess. Fix this problem.
This is where we are – the cost of their second-rate NBN has doubled, the time it will take to build this second-rate NBN has more than doubled, the cost of fibre to the node has tripled, up from $600 to $1,600, the cost of fixing the copper has blown out by more than 1,000 per cent and in the places where they are starting to roll this mess out it is not working properly.
Let me be very, very clear: this mess is going to haunt this Prime Minister. It is evidence of his failure to deliver and evidence that he can’t be trusted. It is evidence that he says one thing before an election and then does another. In the longer term it will be evidence of his bad judgement, lack of vision and that he just simply got this wrong.
I will give one more example to prove it. Before the last election in his election policy the Prime Minister said, I’ve got an example from America to show why fibre to the node is better than fibre to the premises. He gave the example of Verizon and AT&T. Verizon built fibre to the premises, AT&T went and built fibre to the node. He said, AT&T made the right decision because it was cheaper and they will make the same amount of money. Guess what AT&T announced in December last year? They are rolling out fibre to the premises for 14 million homes across the country and, in places where they rolled out fibre to the node, they are going back and building fibre to the premises. That is what is going to have to happen here in Australia. It is going to take a Labor government to do it—to come back and finish off the NBN and fix Malcolm Turnbull’s mess.