Doorstop – Sydney – Sunday 14 December 2014





SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott acquiring Telstra’s old copper network

JASON CLARE; SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Today, Tony Abbott has bought back the old copper network that John Howard sold last century. It’s a little bit like selling your old VHS video recorder in the 90s and then buying it back. Don’t believe this idea that it is free, this is going to cost taxpayers billions and billions of dollars to maintain and upgrade this old copper network. The Government has got what it wants out of this deal, Telstra’s got what it wants out of this deal, but the losers in this deal are Australians. Millions of Australians will end up with a second-rate broadband network. The Government gets what it wants, it gets the old copper network back, Telstra gets what it wants, it gets $11.2 billion plus more, it also looks like getting more construction contracts. But the losers here are millions of Australians who are going to end up with a second-rate broadband network. You could say that this is a copper nail in the coffin of the NBN. This is not the NBN that most Australians want. It’s a second-rate copper broadband network. It’s a second-rate network from a third-rate Government. I will ask Michelle to say a few words, and then we’re happy to take questions.

MICHELLE ROWLAND; SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: This afternoon, Minister Malcolm Turnbull talked a lot about the need for innovation, the need for improving Australia in terms of making it a smarter country, but what he has actually done with this deal is take Australia back to the past. Also, as Jason said, don’t be fooled by this notion that this is not costing the taxpayer anything. We know that it will cost billions of dollars to perform the operations and maintenance functions, not to mention the technological upgrades, that are needed for these networks. The reality is that the Australian taxpayer has just assumed all the risk associated with these two assets: the copper network and the HFC network. All the risk is now placed on Australian taxpayers and the result is not as Malcolm Turnbull would have you believe, some faster, more affordable, and cheaper version of the NBN, the reality is this is not the NBN. It is not the NBN that Australians want, and as Jason and I and my Labor colleagues go around Australia, we can see the frustration that Australians have with not having true access to broadband, with having to deal with outdated, and indeed not fit for purpose, copper in their own areas and in many of these cases in capital cities. This Government has sold out Australia, and for all Malcolm Turnbull’s talk about equity, he has also sold out Australia in terms of who can get access to broadband, and that’s not even to mention the dud deal that he has done on rural and regional Australia by abolishing uniform, wholesale pricing only a few days ago.

CLARE: Happy to take your questions.

JOURNALIST: NBN chief, Bill Morrow, told us that this use of the copper will mean fewer gardens and driveways will be dug up, it will be a less invasive rollout to your property, what do you guys say on that? Do you agree that their model at least means a bit less, or fewer, gardens being dug up?

CLARE: In short it means you get a slower, second-rate NBN. Under Labor, 93 per cent of Australians would have got fibre to their home. Now people are going to get copper to their home. Millions of Australians are going to get copper to their home. If you ask any of the experts in this area they all agree that fibre is the endgame. In the end everybody is going to need fibre to their home, so the real question here is not whether you need it, but when you need it and how you deliver it. Under Labor it was going to be done in one project, all at the same time. Because of the actions that this Government has taken it is now going to need to be a two stage process.

JOURNALIST: Is Labor opposed to Telstra getting more construction work on this project?

CLARE: No, I haven’t said that. I think that one of the challenges with this project is construction. It wasn’t fast enough under Labor, it’s not fast enough now under this Liberal National Government. The key challenge for the Government is to speed up the rollout of the NBN. People want it and they want it now. Over the course of the last 12 months, over the course the last 15 months that this Government has been in power, there’s been too many broken promises, too many reviews into the NBN. There’s been eight reviews into the NBN in the last 12 months, almost as many as there have been into who killed JFK in the last 50 years, and not enough work on building the NBN. So if Telstra can help in doing that work then that is a good thing, but don’t think for a minute that this is a deal that involves no extra payment to Telstra, because by the looks of it Telstra will be doing more construction work. And as I said, there is going to be a lot of money that is going to be spent on maintaining and repairing and upgrading this copper network and the company that you would expect to do that, because they have been doing it for so many decades, is Telstra.

Thanks very much.