Interview with Julie Doyle – ABC News – Thursday 31 October 2013






Subjects: NBN.

Julie Doyle: The Opposition’s communications spokesman Jason Clare joined me from Sydney a short time ago.

Jason Clare: The real problem here is it’s a broken promise. Malcolm Turnbull said that all contracts would be honoured but he’s now breaking that promise. There’s half a million homes and businesses where contracts have been issued and work has commenced that have now been taken off a website this week and they’re now in limbo. They’re thinking, “Hang on a second. I was told that we were going to get fibre to the home. All contracts we thought were going to be honoured and now it seems like these contracts are not going to be honoured and these half a million homes and businesses are not going to get fibre to their home.

Julie Doyle: The Government says they’ve got two categories now where they have ‘service available’ and ‘build commenced’ and the old maps weren’t telling the full story.

Jason Clare: I don’t mind how they categorise these things but the fact is a contract’s been issued, work has begun. People are entitled to believe that if an Opposition said that if we form a Government we will honour the contracts and we’ll deliver fibre to your home or to your business, you’re entitled to believe that promise will be honoured.

Now these people are in limbo. Half a million places right across the country from Sydney to Perth to Darwin to Adelaide, Tasmania and Victoria, where people thought they were going to get the NBN, the real NBN, not fraud band, they thought they were going to get fibre all the way to their home or business, now look like they’re going to miss out because of a broken promise.

Julie Doyle: Is it correct though that under the old maps of the roll-out that it said “under construction” where it was an area where really only planning had started rather than actual construction?

Jason Clare: Where work has begun, where either design work, network design work or rod and roping work has begun but the key point here is…

Julie Doyle: …Not real construction though. Even if it was just planning it was still classified as under construction?

Jason Clare: Julie, does it mean that those people aren’t entitled to believe that they’re going to get fibre their home or fibre to their business when the former Opposition, now the Government, said we’d honour that contract and now they’re saying we’re not going to honour that contract.

Julie Doyle: Was it a little misleading though to put it in that way, to categorise it in those terms?

Jason Clare: I don’t mind how things are categorised.

Malcolm Turnbull has said that he wants more transparency. Terrific. The more the better. The key point here is if you make a commitment to honour all existing contracts then honour them. They’re going down the path of fibre to the node. We don’t think that’s the right approach, but for people that have had contracts they are entitled to believe they’re getting fibre to the home because work has begun and to go back now and rip them off a website and say, “We’re not going to give you fibre to the home,” that’s a broken promise in my book.

Julie Doyle: Has this been a problem with the way this project was handled, that expectations were raised, that we have seen timetables that haven’t been met, the number of homes haven’t been met, Wouldn’t it have been better to be more cautious when putting out the maps that showed such large areas being covered?

Jason Clare: Construction is behind and it needs to be improved. It has been over last few months and if you look at the report issued yesterday, it shows that 20,000 premises were passed by fibre in July, 20,000 were passed in August and 20,000 in September and then you see this massive dip and only 2000 places were passed by fibre in existing areas in October.

What we’ve seen over the course of the last month, since the election, is construction has stalled. The strategic review that the Minister has announced has in effect created review paralysis and construction companies who’ve been doing this work are now being told there’s no work forthcoming and construction companies right across the country are telling me, they’re telling the Minister, they’re telling other people in Government that they’re going to hit the wall unless they’re given more work and they’re going to have to start putting people off.

Julie Doyle: What I was asking though about was the way the previous roll-out was framed and spoken about and the way the maps were done, does that raise expectations that were unrealistic? Would it have been better to have been more cautious?

Jason Clare: I think it’s legitimate for people, when work begins, when the network design work, rod and roping out on the street begins, it’s legitimate for all of those people to assume that you’re going to get fibre all the way to your home, that you’re going to get first-class fast-speed broadband and especially when you’ve got the Minister saying that he’ll honour existing contracts. It is up to Malcolm Turnbull to make it clear. Half a million people out there, half a million homes and businesses out there that are in limbo have been taken off the website who now fear they’re not going to get fibre all the way to their premises. It is up to the Minister to make it clear whether they are going to receive fibre all the way to the premises or whether they’ll be the first half a million victims of the Coalition’s cuts to the NBN.

Julie Doyle: Jason Clare, we have to leave it there. Thank you.