That was extraordinary. For those who missed it, what we just saw there was the junior minister at the table, the Minister for Major Projects, Territories and Local Government, do a backflip worthy of Nadia Comaneci. In case you missed it, what he just did then was to gut this bill like a fish. He came into this parliament in December and tabled this bill and gave us a lecture about how important this legislation was, told us that it improved competition, that it improved efficiency, and now he has just ripped all of that out.
This bill has eight parts and the government has just ripped five of them out. How humiliating. In case you missed it, this is the first bill that has been introduced by this government on the NBN in 2½ years.
It has just been gutted like a fish, but I am glad to see the government capitulate so heavily, so quickly, because this is a bad bill. As I said when I spoke in the second reading debate, what the government has tried to do here is to roll back important consumer and competition benefits that we delivered when we were in government: things like universal wholesale pricing, things that provide fairness for people who live in regional Australia. It means that people who live in the bush pay the same wholesale price for equivalent services as people who live in our big cities. The Liberal Party want to get rid of that, and the hapless National Party stood here ready to help them. The only reason that it is not happening is because the Labor Party have stood in their way. Let us be very clear: the only reason they are doing this is not because they have changed their mind—the minister just told us in summing up that he still thinks this is the right thing to do. The only reason they are doing it is because they know they cannot get it through the Senate. And if they win the next election and they get control of the Senate, then you bet this legislation will be back, and they will be onto this like Donkey Kong. They will be back into this, trying to pass the same legislation again.
In the meantime, we have more of this mess that they have made of the NBN. Remember, the cost of the NBN is now double what Malcolm Turnbull said it would be. He said he would build it for $29.5 billion; that has now blown out to up to $56 billion. The NBN is now going to take twice as long as Malcolm said it would to deliver it to everyone in Australia. He said everyone in Australia would have access to the NBN this year. That has now blown out to the end of the decade. And the cost to fix up the copper to make this dodgy second-rate NBN work has blown out—not by 100 per cent, not by 200 per cent, not by 500 per cent—by more than 1,000 per cent. It was originally forecast to cost about $55 million; it is now over $600 million. A leaked document last year showed that the Optus HFC network that they want to use for the NBN is not fit for purpose and will cost more than $700 million to fix so they can use that. Malcolm Turnbull said that it would be a modest cost to fix that. Now we know it has blown out to $700 million. The minister might have something to say about this, because he used to work at Optus. It begs the question: what did he know about this, and did he tell the now Prime Minister that it was not going to be a modest cost to fix the Optus HFC network? Why didn’t he tell the Prime Minister that he was wrong—or did he?
I wonder whether the minister will tell us the truth?
Now, on top of this, this week we have seen two more damaging, leaked documents. The first, this document here, on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald this week, revealed that the cost of building their dodgy, second-rate NBN, the copper fibre to the node, is going up and that the rollout of their fibre to the node is way behind their internal targets. This report, which is only just over a week old, says that they were supposed to be at 94,000 by the end of that week and it is only at 24,000. Then today, this report here reveals that they have done a trial of a new type of fibre in Ballarat and Karingal, and that the cost of fibre is going down.
To add to this, they have this humiliating backdown by the junior minister today, gutting this bill. I can tell you, Deputy Speaker Mitchell, we are very happy to assist the government in gutting their bill. They should be embarrassed.