Doorstop Interview – Canberra – Tuesday, 12 December 2013





SUBJECTS: NBN Strategic Review; Asylum Seekers

JASON CLARE: Today is full of bad news. Let me concentrate on one of them. Today the Government is going to release their plan to build a dodgy second class National Broadband Network. The Minister is going to release a report written by his mates. Written by a man who he owns a yacht with.

At 10 o’clock you’re all going to get locked up. At 10 o’clock the Minister is going to hold a lock up and he is going to put the journalists here in Canberra in a sleeper hold for two hours and try to convince you that his dodgy second class NBN is what Australia needs.

Well I’ll say this. Journalists aren’t stupid. Australians aren’t stupid. They know that Australians want and need better than a dodgy second class National Broadband Network.

Now let me make a few predictions. First, expect that Malcolm Turnbull is going to say that the cost of the NBN is now more. Now if he does that, be suspicious. For the last three or four years every organisation has said the cost of the NBN is the same. Whether it’s Treasury, or Finance or the Australian National Audit Office, the Company, the Board, KPMG, Ernst and Young have all said the same thing – that the cost of the NBN is the same. So if the Minister comes out today and says, after he’s put his mates in to write the report, that the price is different be very suspicious.

The second thing is, look out for the broken promise. Before the election Tony Abbott said that everyone in Australia would get access to 25 megabits per second by 2016. Now today when the Minister stands up look for words like ‘aim’, look for words like ‘goal’, look for the steps that the Government takes to back track on this commitment because a secret report from NBN was leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald a few weeks ago said that it’s unlikely that the government can implement this commitment. So look for the weasel words as the Government tries to backtrack from this commitment.

Finally, look for how much it’s going to cost to build the second rate dodgy NBN. Look for how much it is going to cost, not just to roll out the fibre but to fix and maintain the old copper network. If the Minister doesn’t provide the real costs for fixing and maintain that copper network than this report will have failed and it won’t be worth the paper that it’s written on.

Happy to take your questions.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

CLARE: It’s very significant. I think it won’t be lost on anybody that today the greatest Treasurer that Australia has ever had is here in Parliament at the same time when you’ve got the worst Treasurer that Australia has got now running the country, responsible for bad decision after bad decision. Whether it’s promising to cut debt and then more than doubling it, or whether it’s making bad decisions like Grain Corp, or the decision that he made a couple of days ago to stand in the Parliament and effectively dare Holden to leave the country. Effectively tell Holden to rack off and that’s what they’ve done as a result. So it won’t be lost on anybody that the man responsible for building our modern economy that has enjoyed twenty years of uninterrupted economic growth is here in the same building as the man who is helping to cripple the Australian economy with bad decision after bad decision.

JOURNALIST: What do you think of Billy Morrow being appointed as head of NBN Co?

CLARE: Well I welcome that. I think it’s important that a decision is made as quickly as possible to appoint a new CEO. We’ve had a part-time Chief Executive now for the last couple of months, effectively working 3 days a week and as a result we’ve seen the construction of the NBN slow since the election. That’s not a good thing.

We’ve seen people taken off the NBN rollout map. Half a million homes and businesses that were promised they would get Labor’s NBN, fibre-to-the-premises, have been taken off the rollout map. A breach of a promise I’ve got to say.

A broken promise because Malcolm Turnbull said he would honour his promise to deliver on existing contracts and he’s not doing that. Not only that. He also promised that businesses that were working on the NBN would be able to continue to employ their workers and they wouldn’t be laid off.

We are not just seeing people being laid off at Holden. We are seeing people being laid off that are building the NBN. So anything to get somebody in the NBN, to get the construction going again, rolling out is a good thing.

JOURNALIST: On asylum seekers there has been another damming report on Manus Island, this time from Amnesty. The Greens say that the conditions are deliberately bad because they are trying to force people to go back to where they came from or push them to breaking point, is that a fair assessment.

CLARE: I wouldn’t accept that. It is important that the government does all of the necessary things to make sure that people are treated fairly and I expect them to do that.

JOURNALIST: Is it fair to have limited access to water, no access to soap, no shoes and not being able to leave the compound without shoes? Are they fair conditions?

CLARE: I don’t think so. Next question? Ok. Merry Christmas everybody. Thanks.