Interview with Glenn Johns – The 7XS Breaky Show – Wednesday, 9 March 2016



GLENN JOHNS: Joining me now in the studio on the back of the NBN forum that was held in Queenstown last night, I’m happy to say Jason Clare, the Shadow Federal Minister for Communications joins me. Hi Jason!


JOHNS: We are under flickering lights here. You don’t suffer from epilepsy do you?

CLARE: No, but the flashing lights remind me of the flashing anger last night at the NBN forum, there were a lot of angry people there.

JOHNS: There were, but I thought it was tempered. I thought that people’s opinions were put across but it is definite that the West Coasters do not want satellite, it’s the last option and it’s just not going to service agriculture, it’s not going to service mining, it’s not going to service small business, it’s not going to help the region diversify and go forward. Education, health you name it.

CLARE: The people of Queenstown are good people who were very polite last night but you could tell that they were fuming with anger. Last year Western Tasmania was dudded, they were all set to get fibre and then without any warning we are told no you’re going to get the satellite instead. That’s like going from the best and fastest version of the NBN to the slowest. You can understand why people feel like they’ve been dudded and ripped off.

JOHNS: Brett Whiteley shot himself in the foot. He said that streaming was going to be available for everybody. Hello it’s not about getting your movies, this is about business. Sure look all the gaming and that sort of stuff is fine but what was brought out in the meeting yesterday was that in the fine print the satellite service that we are going to get here, it says in your fine print when you sign up for it says not good enough for gaming, not good enough for streaming, this is not the service for that. On from that, you can take that it’s not good enough for the West Coast.

CLARE: This is all about jobs, education and health. This is what the NBN will help to deliver to Western Tasmania. It’s quite pertinent that we’ve got problems with electricity today. Can you imagine running a business in Western Tasmania without any electricity? Now try to imagine running a business without proper access to broadband. It’s the case already and it’s only going to become more and more important in the future. This is why Western Tasmania deserves to have the same access to broadband which you find in other parts of the country.

JOHNS: It’s very distracting with the power at the moment because one wonders what the hell this is about. Is it to do with Basslink, is that the generators hooking up, is it the water being too low?

CLARE: It’s like we are in a disco here at the moment.

JOHNS: It is indeed and if you were epileptic, that lighting would set you off and I just wonder now how many of our audience members can’t hear us because the power has gone off and their wireless would be on in the kitchen.

CLARE: They are experiencing the same thing, they are thinking this is second rate, this is dodgy, and why is this happening in the 21st century? Why is the electricity not working properly? I worry that we are going to be having the same problem with the NBN.

JOHNS: It was brought up by Colin Carter, the Geology Manager from Bluestones Mines that they have got the slowest speed and yet 370 odd million dollars comes out of this region from mining and if they don’t have the internet to be able to run their machinery etc. If they are passing CDs at meetings, that is pathetic. The satellite service is not going to be able to change that. We need fibre options here with perhaps the satellite as a backup.

CLARE: Business today is about being able to send information at the press of a button. Imagine you can’t even download a file, you’ve got to burn something onto a disc and then you’ve got to give it to Australia Post and then wait a week until someone gets it and puts it in their computer. You’re going to lose business.

JOHNS: This is an industry that pumps 370 odd million in. Now speaking of losing business, there were a number of people that spoke yesterday, that came specifically to the West Coast for the lifestyle but because the NBN was going to be rolled out, the way it was originally going to be rolled out, and now they are disappointed because they are left at a disadvantage.

CLARE: Right up until July last year all of the documents that came out of NBN said that fibre was going to be rolled out from the north-west down here to the west. In the documents that were put out when we were in Government, when we originally put the NBN together, we said fibre would come down here and for the last two years there have been documents coming out of the Liberal Government saying yes fibre is going to come. Then in the middle of last year when suddenly they had a blowout in the cost of the copper part of the NBN, they decided to slice off Queenstown from the project and put Queenstown on the satellite.

JOHNS: Cost-cutting, that’s what it was.

CLARE: That’s exactly right. On a project that’s this big and this important, what they’ve decided to do is effectively slice off twenty million dollars to put fibre down here. It was a bad decision.

JOHNS: Dirk Dowling, the General Manager of the West Coast Council said that if we are making 370 million, what the hell is ten or twenty million? We’ve surely paid for it.

CLARE: This is the economic heart of Western Tasmania…

JOHNS: We punch well above our weight…

CLARE: You’ve got all of this wealth created here, all of these potential jobs that could be created by better NBN and we have a short-sighted myopic decision by a government to say “no, no, no, the West can put up with satellite”.

JOHNS: You’re in Opposition, we are in an election year, and it’s probably made Brett Whiteley a little bit more uncomfortable. He’s of course the Federal Member for Braddon and pretty much he was taken to with warm strips of wet lettuce behind the knees yesterday. He was told on no uncertain terms to not condescend the West Coast. But he’s come out in The Advocate, he’s been quoted as saying “Look, give the satellite a chance”.

CLARE: What Brett Whiteley said was give it six months. Well something is going to happen in the next six months and it’s called a federal election. What Brett Whiteley wants to do is put this off until after the election, everybody calm down and give it a go, re-elect me and then after that then we will go back to sleep.

There’s a chance for the people of Western Tasmania in the next few months to put some real pressure, to put some acid on local politicians here and say this is not good enough, we want a better deal. The people of Australia have the most power on the eve of an election. Yesterday we heard that we may have an election on the 2nd of July, so now is the time to ramp up the pressure, which I know Council and businesses are doing.

This was the biggest NBN forum that I’ve ever been to right across Australia and people don’t turn up to these things unless they’re angry. There’s a lot of people angry, you’ve got to turn that anger into political power and say to Malcolm Turnbull and Brett Whiteley that this is not good enough and we are not going to put up with getting a second-rate version of this. Whilst I didn’t announce the Labor Party’s policy on the stage last night, I said that it will be very very clear before the election, in a couple of months time that there will be a big difference between Brett Whiteley and the Liberals and between the Labor Party and Justine Keay, our candidate here. There will be a very clear difference between the type of NBN that you get under a Labor here in Queenstown and what you get under the Liberals.

JOHNS: Were you guys to get in or Justine to get in, you’re basically going to turn this around and give us what we want. Was that your promise?

CLARE: When we were in Government, we said we were going to roll out fibre down here. Now I won’t announce exactly what we will do, needless to say that we are working on it right now. There’s an election not far away and I will make it very loud and very clear when we announce our policy that there will be a big difference between what you’ll get here in Queenstown under Labor and what you’d get under the Liberals.

JOHNS: So you make us a promise to get in touch with 7XS and give us an exclusive?

CLARE: Well I don’t know about exclusive but I’ll tell you what, I’d be happy to get on the radio, no flashing lights though and hopefully the electricity is fixed by then, and run through all the details with you, that would be great.

JOHNS: Jason good to have you in. We will keep in touch, this is an issue that is not going to go away until we get what we want. We are now the little six year old kid in the corner, stomping up and down going no, no, no, this is what we want and we aren’t going to back down.

CLARE: I’ve been super impressed by the people of Queenstown. Real people power on display last night, but we’ve just got to keep fighting.

JOHNS: Jason Clare, the Shadow Federal Minister for Communications. Nice to meet you, thank you for your time.

CLARE: Likewise thanks.