Doorstop Interview – Canberra – Wednesday, 27 August 2014






SUBJECTS: NBN Cost-Benefit Analysis

JASON CLARE: A new report is out today. Surprise, surprise Malcolm Turnbull has got some of his former staff and former advisers to write a report on the NBN and – believe it or not – it says that Malcolm Turnbull is right.

An important point for everyone to know here, three weeks before the election Malcolm Turnbull said that he would get Infrastructure Australia to do this report. This is another broken promise by a Government full of broken promises. Instead of getting the Government body Infrastructure Australia to do this report, instead what Malcolm Turnbull has done is get former staff and former advisers and some of the most vociferous and trenchant critics of the NBN to write this report and it shows. It’s like putting foxes in charge of the hen house.

Let me make some other points about the NBN. At the end of next week it will be the first anniversary of the Abbott Government. In that time on the NBN all we’ve seen is a raft of broken promises and more delays on the rollout of the NBN.

My major criticism of the NBN has been that it hasn’t been rolled out fast enough. Unfortunately I have to tell you today that the NBN is rolling out slower today than it was this time last year. It’s rolling out slower now than it was before the election. In the ten weeks before the 2013 election the NBN rolled past more than 4,000 brownfield premises [per week, on average]. Now today, in the last ten weeks, it’s rolled past only 3,600 premises [per week, on average]. So the NBN is rolling out slower today than it was this time last year.

The reason for that is because we’ve got a Government focused on the past rather than the future. A Government that is focused on these reports, we’ve now had six of these reports worth more than $12 million.

I say to Malcolm Turnbull that you’ve got six reports and no excuses. This is your responsibility and it’s your job to roll out the NBN. The people of Australia are sick of the delays. Do your job and roll out the National Broadband Network.

JOURNALIST: The Coalition would argue that [inaudible].

CLARE: We commissioned an expert panel to give us the right model. We asked McKinsey and KPMG to do a detailed implementation study and we also got a Corporate Plan developed that showed that building the NBN would deliver a return on investment to the Australian tax payers. Now if you are going to do a Cost Benefit Analysis, at least make it independent. Don’t get people who have already got a preconceived idea about whether the NBN is a good idea or not to do the job and that’s why I say, Malcolm Turnbull you should have kept your promise to the Australian people and delivered this Cost Benefit Analysis by Infrastructure Australia.

JOURNALIST: Again, at the end of the day, Labor never delivered a Cost Benefit Analysis [inaudible]?

CLARE: As I say, if you are going to do a cost benefit analysis make it independent. This isn’t.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that it’s right for the Government to, looking at the Cost Benefit Analysis, for the Government to spend so much more money rolling out broadband to areas where there aren’t [inaudible]?

CLARE: This is a good question. If you take the advice of this report you wouldn’t roll out the NBN to the bush. The National Party should be terrified of this report because this report says that you shouldn’t spend taxpayer’s money on rolling out the NBN to the bush. Now if you do that I think you will end up with civil war inside the Coalition. What we believe is that the NBN is the biggest and most important infrastructure project in Australia. It should be rolling out now and it should be rolling out faster. The Government should be focused on rolling out the NBN, not focused on the past and publishing million dollar reports.

JOURNALIST: The $16 billion figure being announced today, that’s still quite a saving though, as long as there is a mixed method, a mixed amount of technology. Isn’t that money that could be used to pay for other for [inaudible]?

CLARE: When you do an analysis like this it depends of the assumptions that you put in. If you get your assumptions wrong than the result is wrong. The assumptions that they’ve put in on cost, on time, on revenue and on demand for the NBN, I think, are all wrong.

The report says that it expects that within ten years’ time that only five percent of Australians will want 43 megabits per second or more. Well, already you’ve got 28 percent of Australians that are ordering 50 megabits per second or more. I think that tells you a lot about the conclusions in this report. The report also says that the cost of rolling out fibre to the home is going up, while yesterday Malcolm Turnbull said that the cost of doing that is going down.

Thanks very much.