Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News AM Agenda – Wednesday 16 MArch 2016



KIERAN GILBERT: With me now Communications minister Jason Clare. Another leak from the NBN, this time showing that the Fibre-to-the-Distribution-Point, which is basically a pit outside your home as opposed to Fibre-to-the-Premises that the costs are comparable to Fibre-to-the-Node which is the Government’s plan.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: That is exactly right. We already know that this is a mess. The cost of the NBN is double what Turnbull promised it would be, it’s now going to take twice as long as Malcolm Turnbull said it would to rollout his second rate copper version of the NBN. We’ve had leak after leak from NBN Co. Five leaks in the last few weeks. Now we’ve got a sixth leak and this document shows that the cost of rolling out fibre to the pit out the front of your house is now roughly the same cost as rolling out Fibre-to-the-Node. So this blows Malcolm Turnbull’s Fibre-to-the-Node version of the NBN out of the water and the only reason that Malcolm Turnbull is not ditching Fibre-to-the-Node is because rolling this out will prove that he was wrong.

GILBERT: Aren’t they also pursuing this? Isn’t it a mix of options? Isn’t the reason that they know that this is proving cost effective because the Government is pursuing it?

CLARE: What was revealed yesterday is that twelve months ago the head of the NBN took this proposal to the NBN Board and said that we should be looking at rolling this out. Nothing has happened because if they roll this out it would be humiliating for Malcolm Turnbull. It would prove that Fibre-to-the-Node which is much slower, ten times slower than this technology – it would prove that Fibre-to-the-Node is wrong.

GILBERT: Just clarify for me, isn’t Fibre-to-the-Distribution-Point, which is sort of the half-way house between Fibre-to-the-Node and Fibre-to-the-Home isn’t that also part of the Turnbull plan?

CLARE: No it is not.

GILBERT: It’s not being rolled out at any point?

CLARE: No it’s not. There was a trial run in Ballarat last year of a new type of skinny fibre all the way to the house. What that trial showed is that running fibre to about ten metres away from the house can deliver much faster internet speeds and you could build it for almost the same cost as Fibre-to-the-Node.

GILBERT: The Government is not doing that in any part of the country?

CLARE: No, because Malcolm Turnbull is a bit like Fonzie from Happy Days, the leather jacket wearing Prime minister just can’t say he is wrong and what I am saying is that this proves that Malcolm Turnbull was wrong to rollout a slower copper version of the NBN and he shouldn’t be doing this.

GILBERT: Isn’t it true then that Labor should have looked at this as well? Was this a possible scenario under your plan, Fibre-to-the-Distribution-Point?

CLARE: No this is technology developed by Corning in the last few years that helps to rollout fibre much cheaper. The cost of rolling out Fibre-to-the-Home is going down significantly now because of this new technology. What’s astounding is that Malcolm Turnbull has put his head in the sand and said that we are not going to do this even though it is faster and almost the same price.

GILBERT: But was this an option under Labor?

CLARE: No it wasn’t because this technology has been developed in the last few years.

GILBERT: So doesn’t it show you then that Conroy and Gillard and Rudd for that matter that they jumped the mark to begin with because if you’ve got better technology now doesn’t it prove Turnbull is right?

CLARE: No we always said the cost of rolling out fibre would go down as new technologies developed. This shows it’s right. If Malcolm Turnbull is as agile and as nimble as he says he is then he’d roll this out rather than the slower copper NBN he’s rolling out now.

GILBERT: But I guess the point is if you had committed to Fibre-to-the-Premises from the outset and you didn’t factor in this option, this middle ground which you’re telling me at the moment –

CLARE: It’s not middle ground, I dispute that.

GILBERT: Well half-way house.

CLARE: It’s not a half-way house. This is within 10 metres of the house.

GILBERT: Ten metres within, but wouldn’t it have been a possibility under Labor because you had put all your eggs in one basket.

CLARE: No Kieran you must not misunderstood this. What this technology trial that’s been run in Ballarat shows is that the cost of rolling out fibre all the way to the house is going down. We found out that it’s cut the cost of Fibre-to-the-House by at least four hundred and fifty dollars per premises and potentially more. As you continue to rollout technology you find cheaper and better ways to do it with less construction.

GILBERT: But doesn’t that vindicate Turnbull’s approach because what he’s done is, ok we’ll start with Fibre-to-the-Node and as you get better more effective approaches then we’ll adopt it? Whereas Labor’s was straight in all eggs in one basket – Fibre-to-the-Premises.

CLARE: They aren’t doing that. They are sticking with Fibre-to-the-Node which we’ve found is slower and less reliable. There are people who have got Fibre-to-the-Node on the Central Coast in New South Wales that are now getting slower speeds than they were with ADSL because when they have switched it on it’s not working properly. The cost of fixing Telstra’s old copper which they bought back to make this work has blown out by a 1,000 per cent.

GILBERT: So let’s just clarify then though, so Labor’s policy today is to use fibre to the pit outside the home, Fibre-to-the-Distribution-Point?

CLARE: We’ll announce our policy closer to the election. We’ve said we’ll roll out more fibre but what this document shows though is that Malcolm Turnbull is too arrogant to give people faster internet speeds. The internet speeds in Australia at the moment are a joke. This technology would give people faster internet speeds. Malcolm Turnbull knows it.

GILBERT: It seems a no brainer to me, listening to your argument this morning that you would adopt Fibre-to-the-Distribution-Point.

CLARE: I have said that Labor will rollout more fibre. We’ll announce our policy closer to the election. What is astounding here is that Malcolm Turnbull has known for a year that you can rollout fibre to the front of people’s homes for roughly the same cost as Fibre-to-the-Node and give people ten times faster internet speeds and they’ve done nothing about it.

GILBERT: If you look at the polls things have narrowed you could be in Government, you might rein it in from Fibre-to-the-Premises to Fibre-to-the-Pit?

CLARE: I think at this election people will reflect back on Malcolm Turnbull’s record and in the last two and a half years he’s had basically one job that’s to roll out the NBN, the costof it has doubled under his watch, and the time it’s going to take to build it has doubled as well. It’s a mess.