Doorstop – NBN Announcement

MONDAY, 13 JUNE 2016

SUBJECT/S: Orlando nightclub shooting; Labor’s plan to fix Malcolm Turnbull’s National Broadband Network mess, Election 2016; Liberals’ undemocratic council amalgamations; Q&A

EMMA HUSAR, CANDIDATE FOR LINDSAY: Welcome everybody to Western Sydney, I’m Emma Husar and I’m Labor’s candidate for the seat of Lindsay which is where we are now at the Werrington Park Corporate Centre, a building that was funded by Federal Labor quite a few years ago now. We’ve just had a tour through the launch pad, they’re doing some fabulous work in innovation, and that’s what we’re here to talk about today. How Labor is going to be supporting businesses into the future and businesses like the ones we’ve just seen. So I’d like to say welcome to everybody, and thanks Bill and Jason and Ed for being here today.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you, Emma. Emma is our candidate for Lindsay, a fantastic candidate, and if she gets elected to Parliament, you will see a lot more of her. She will make a big contribution in the national stage.

I want to turn my first remarks, however, to the brutal terror attack which was reported late yesterday in Orlando. This is a brutal terror attack reflecting a deep-seated fear of freedom. And because this attack took place in a gay nightclub, I particularly want to extend my sympathy to people in the LGBTI community who might be feeling additional pain. It was an attack on our humanity; it was an attack on all of us. It was an attack on the right to be proud of who you are and who you love. I extend the deepest sympathy and sorrow to the people of the United States for this brutal terror attack. And I think it does speak volumes about the strength of our democracy that all Australians, regardless of their political views, are united in our sympathy for the citizens of the United States of America.

I am here today as well to announce Labor’s plan to build a National Broadband Network that Australia needs for the jobs of the future. After I speak I will get my colleague the Shadow Minister for NBN, Jason Clare to talk further. But the need has never been greater for a high-speed, quality National Broadband Network. In his two years as the specific minister responsible for the roll-out of the NBN, Australia’s National Broadband Network, Malcolm Turnbull has made a complete mess of the job. He has simultaneously blown out the cost of the project and not delivering the sort of high performing quality product which Australians reasonably expect of our NBN. If we win on July 2nd, we will commence the work to clean up the mess that has been left by the last three years of Mr Turnbull’s maladministration of the NBN. Our proposals that I will outline today, and Jason Clare will outline today, will give Australians the world-class quality product which Australians deserve, which Australians reasonably expect. We can, and we will, build a modern high-speed network which ensures that Australian business, that Australian entrepreneurs, Australians with ideas, Australians in the regions, can keep up with the rest of the world. We will not give the Australian people a second-class technology which is obsolete even before it’s actually implemented. Mr Turnbull made promises before the last election to roll out the NBN to all Australians in this term of government. NBN Co has failed to meet the promises made by Mr Turnbull before the last election. Instead, Australia has dropped backwards in our rankings in terms of internet speed. The cost has ballooned from $29 billion to $56 billion. Only Labor can be trusted to clean up the mess. Only Labor has a plan which will increase the proportion of world-class technology as part of our roll-out. Now I might at this point ask Jason Clare to talk fu rther about our great ideas then we’ll take some questions. Thank you very much.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Thanks very much, Bill. In the first two years of this government, Malcolm Turnbull basically had one job. And that was to build the NBN. And by any objective analysis he’s made a mess of it. The cost of his second-rate version of the NBN has almost doubled, the time it will take to build this second-rate version of the NBN has more than doubled, and we’ve gone, as Bill just mentioned, from 30th in the world to 60th in the world for internet speeds. Behind most of Asia, behind most of Europe, behind America, behind Canada, behind New Zealand, behind Russia, behind Slovakia. And where this second-rate copper version of the NBN has been rolled out in places like Bundaberg or in the Hunter or on the Central Coast, people are finding that it’s not working properly. They come home from work and kids who are getting home from school, getting on the internet and internet speeds sometimes are slower than they were when they had ADSL. On top of that the cost of fixing the old Telstra copper network that Malcolm Turnbull’s using to build this copper version of the NBN has blown out by more than 1,000 per cent. And to make it work he’s had to buy 10,000 metres of new copper. Now, to put that in perspective, that’s enough copper to link us from where we are here near Penrith to Russia. Or almost enough copper to link us to Silicon Valley. Now in addition do that, if you were online yesterday you would’ve seen a story that’s telling us now that Malcolm Turnbull and the NBN are recruiting people in Ireland to come and build the NBN. That’s on top of another story we saw a couple of weeks ago that they’re recruiting copper assurance managers to work in Mumbai to help to build this copper version of the NBN. It’s a mess. It’s a mess and the worst part of this is that at the end of the day when it’s all said and done what he’s building is a network that is not going to set us up for the jobs of the future. If you go to South Korea, go to Japan, go to Singapore, you’ll see they’re all rolling out fibre networks. Even New Zealand. New Zealand already has fibre to the node, they’re going back now and rolling out fibre to the premises. You see the same thing in the United States, AT&T, 10 years ago, and Malcolm Turnbull bases his policy on this, 10 years ago rolled out fibre to the node when Verizon rolled out fibre to the premises, AT&T announced last year that they are now going back and rolling out fibre to the premises as that’s what customers are demanding. In New Zealand, in America, in other places you’re seeing people go from copper to fibre. The tragedy is here in Australia over the last few years we’ve gone from fibre back to copper. It ends here with this policy. We’re going from Malcolm Turnbull’s fraudband back to real s uperfast broadband. We’re going from copper back to fibre. In this policy we say what we can do after all this mess and cleaning up all this mess is roll out fibre to the home to up to 2 million more Australian homes and businesses that means we’ll go very close to doubling the number of homes and businesses that will get fibre to the premises, including Kingswood, which is just around the corner from here. 

SHORTEN: Thanks Jason, are there any questions?

JOURNALIST: Are you planning to preference the Greens above the Liberals across the country as well as Nick Xenophon in three of the South Australian seats? And doesn’t that fly in the face of what you were saying about saying about deals with minor parties?

SHORTEN: First of all, Labor’s in this election to win it. I’m not leading the Labor Party to come second. In all of the House of Representatives seats that we’re running in, for example, we’re running to come first. There that’s no chance we’re going to come third. So in other words, our preferences will not be allocated. Beyond that in the Senate, it is hardly stop the press news that we are likely to preference progressive parties above the Liberal Party. I know Mr Turnbull wants to just talk about preference arrangements because let’s face it he can’t talk about his NBN, can he? I am here every day talking about issues that are vitally important to Australians. Yesterday, I indicated how Labor will have a plan, a properly funded plan to make sure that people who are waiting for elective surgeries at home get the phone call earlier than they otherwise would to say there’s a fac ility available so that they can have that operation. Today, I’m having a conversation with millions of Australians, small business people, students, entrepreneurs such as the very calibre of people we just met before. They want to end the broadband connection nightmare. Labor has a plan to do that. So yes, Mr Turnbull will no doubt talk about preferences. But what I’m going to do is I’m chasing every first preference vote I can get and if you care about a modern NBN, which means that Australian businesses can compete for the contracts and the jobs of the future right around the world, well then you’d vote Labor at the next election.

JOURNALIST: Just on the NBN, originally Labor promised 93 per cent of households would get fibre the home. What you’re promising today is up to 39 per cent. By your own definition aren’t you delivering a second-rate NBN?

SHORTEN: Well, I will get Jason to supplement the answer to this question Anna, but let’s call it as it is: we’ve had three years of Malcolm Turnbull’s maladministration of the NBN. You don’t have to take my word for it. How about all those reports which Malcolm Turnbull’s so keen that no-one ever gets to read? The truth of the matter is that we cannot pretend that the last three years hasn’t happened so we are not going to do what right-wing Liberal governments always do if and when they get elected and try and unpick everything that the previous government’s done. Australians are sick of political parties going back and resetting the clock back at zero and starting again from the very start. The truth of the matter is we wouldn’t have done what Mr Turnbull’s done. We wouldn’t have put in obsolete copper technology as the fulcrum, the centre of his policy. That chap has built in obsolescence in our most important part of twenty-first century innovation infrastructure Australia needs. He’s already tied it up in copper, so we’re not going to go back and re-dig out every fibre-to-the-node merely because we think that fibre-to-the-premises is superior but what we can do, because this is a choice in 2016 between Mr Turnbull and myself, is we will get back to having fibre-to-the-premises in the future. That’s going to generate a greater return because more customers actually want the quality of the service. It will mean there will be less operational expenditure so we will repair the mess that Malcolm Turnbull’s made and we’ll get Australia back on course for world-class technology. I might ask Jason to talk a bit further because your question goes to the heart of a few matters. 

JOURNALIST: Can I ask, particularly addressing with you the issue of the MTM roll-out and the potential according to internal documents for that to be better than fibre-to-the-home technology.

CLARE: I have said repeatedly that we will roll-out more fibre, we will roll out more fibre if we’re elected. Today we’re putting a number on it of up to 2 million homes and businesses but I have also said this, that I don’t want people to think that if we win the election you can just click your fingers and all the nodes disappear in a hurry. Malcolm Turnbull’s invested $15 billion of taxpayers’ money in this second-rate version of the NBN over the last 2.5, 3 years, including rolling out fibre-to-the-node. There’s about 1.3 million homes at the moment where construction is under way for fibre-to-the-node. So where we can, we stop fibre-to-the-node and we roll out fibre-to-the-premises. That’s what we can do there. Another important part of our policy is tasking Infrastructure Australia, an independent body, to give us the advice we need on when and how to go back and finish the job.

JOURNALIST: Jason, let’s talk cost for a second. The last NBN numbers have fibre-to-the-home at $2,000 more expensive than fibre to the node. Where will that money come from? That’s about $4 billion on 2 million premises?

CLARE: One of the big mistakes Malcolm Turnbull made is he underestimated the cost of fibre-to-the-node. In his Strategic Review, he thought you could do fibre to the node for $600 a house. In fact it’s triple that. It’s gone up to $1600. So the cost of the copper version of the NBN has gone up, while we’re now seeing the cost of the fibre version of the NBN going down. We’ve modelled this very conservatively at 3,700 but as you know from the trials done in Ballarat last year and NBN admitted this in evidence to an NBN committee only a couple of months ago, they’ve got that down to around 3,200, 3,200 and a half. In the model that’s part of these documents, we’re assuming a 19 per cent improvement on that price over time. Very conservative again. Look at what Chorus has done in New Zealand. It’s something like 29 per cent over 12 months. That’s all part of the model there. The o ther point to make on costs, I make it very, very clear. To do what we are doing, the cap-ex cost is high, about 3.4 billion, but the op-ex cost, the operational cost, cost of running the system is less, about $1.2 billion. Now, why is that? Because you don’t have the cost of fixing the old copper. And you also don’t have the electricity bills that come with running 30,000 nodes. Those 30,000 nodes that Malcolm Turnbull wants to build all around the country will cost, when they’re all set up, 60 million bucks a year to run. So you save on the operational costs, you also get more revenue. Remember, the NBN will make revenue for Australian taxpayers over time. And the internal rate of return, the money back to taxpayers, goes up under this model from a minimum of 2.7 up to 3.9 because people are getting a better service. That’s why. 

JOURNALIST: Can we talk council amalgamations? Explain to us why this isn’t just a shameless grab for votes?

SHORTEN: Did you say that when John Howard raised plebiscites against Queensland state local government amalgamations? I think anyone who’s been travelling up the length and breadth of New South Wales as I have, would have to be in touch and notice the serious community uproar. I didn’t invent this problem. The Liberal Government of New South Wales did. But I have been travelling out and about. I’m in touch what people are actually saying. This is an issue of some great frustration to many people. You’ve already had the councils of North Sydney, of Randwick, of Waverley Council, you’ve got a regional council, Snowy River, Tumbarumba, for example, have all called for plebiscites. Down in south coast of New South Wales they had a plebiscite and the government changed its view. This is not just another issue of a State Government. This is not just another issue in terms of the state level of go vernment. Local government deserves to be recognised in the Australian Constitution. Labor has taken a keen interest in respecting the role of local government. In fact, this current controversy and the stifling of democracy in New South Wales goes to show what a shame it was that the Liberals dropped their bipartisan support for putting local government into the Constitution. All I’m doing is here is proposing that people have a say in the way they are governed and councils and administrators can seek to have a voice. Again, I just return to where I started. I’ve noticed and you couldn’t not fail to notice unless you were remarkably out of touch, how upset tens and tens of thousands of people are and so I had a look round and I saw that John Howard, too, had looked at this issue back in the day, and he proposed plebiscites and they had plebiscites in Queensland, and I thought: well, fair enough. There’s the precedent, there’s the stifling of democracy, a nd I will stand up for the voices of people who are not being heard.

JOURNALIST: Given your numbers on the National Broadband Network are so wildly different to the Government’s, and are so big, what independent scrutiny have you had of the numbers in your NBN plan, and can we see it?

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, Tim, it won’t surprise you to know I don’t agree with the outset of your assumptions in your question. I don’t buy that bit of fairy tale that says somehow we’ve got numbers which are so different to the Government’s. The truth of the matter is this: Mr Turnbull promised Australia, he looked down the barrel of a camera in 2013 and he said that they could build the National Broadband Network for $29 billion. It’s now at $56 billion, and we’ve seen the painful and extraordinary efforts of Mr Turnbull and NBN Co to make sure that the truth doesn’t get out into the hands of Australians. In terms of our numbers, we will provide costings before the conclusion of this election. But what I also know is this: we get that if you’re going to roll out the NBN, do it once, do it properly. It’s actually far cheaper to do it the first time and use the best techno logy rather than install copper technology to the level of reliance they have and that you know that you will be back fixing that system up. Many of you drive on our roads. You know what it’s like when you see a new road being built, a new freeway or a new highway and you see a one-lane off-ramp being built. You know, you that a forehead-slapping moment, you know that that one-lane off-ramp will be obsolete even before it’s opened. That’s what Malcolm Turnbull has done to the NBN. I might get Jason to talk a little bit further.

CLARE: If there were gold medals handed out for stuff-ups and blow-outs, Malcolm Turnbull would be on his way to Rio right now. As Bill mentioned, Malcolm Turnbull promised at the last election that everyone in Australia would have the NBN this year. As we stand here today, less than 20 per cent of Australia has the NBN. It’s why I say, Tim, it’s why I say if you’re still buffering, blame Malcolm.

JOURNALIST: Who’s had a look at your numbers?

CLARE: Let me go to that, okay. Bill talked about the lack of detail, the lack of information, the absolute secrecy at NBN. Compare that to the enormous detail that we’re providing in this document here today. Checked and tested by the PBO, also checked and tested by an independent accounting firm that are doing work not just on this, but also on other our parts of our policy and all the details about them and the work they’ve done will be released before the election. 

JOURNALIST: What is the cost of commissioning Infrastructure Australia to oversee a transition plan and can you guarantee that that will actually lead to at least some homes with the Coalition’s version of the NBN upgraded to the fibre-to-the-premises technology?

SHORTEN:  I will take the first part of the question and Jason will take the second. Labor has proposed turbocharging Infrastructure Australia. We think we need to get elections beyond and policies beyond the short term cycle of three-year elections. What we want to do is create an almost Reserve Bank of Australian infrastructure policy. Get it beyond the sort of inner city debates or the National Party, you know, particular regional rort systems that they’ve done in the past. What Australians are sick of is short-term decision making. What Australians want is long-term policy. So we have proposed, we proposed it last year, turbocharging Infrastructure Australia with extra resources so we’ve made allocation which will allow them to do exactly what you’re talking about as part of their remit. But more importantly even than just that particular issue, Infrastructure Australia has a once in a generation cha nce to be properly funded to analyse the infrastructure proposals, to provide the reasons and the analysis for the decisions that they make, and that means that all of us, no matter who we vote for or where we live, can be confident that at last we’re getting a long-term policy bank of ideas for infrastructure. I’ll get Jason to answer the second part.

CLARE: I’ll get you to ask me again.

JOURNALIST: Can you guarantee that commissioning Infrastructure Australia to oversee your transition plan, that that would actually lead to at least some of the homes who already have the Coalition’s technology upgraded to yours?

CLARE: That’s exactly the point.  I mentioned in my introductory comments that in New Zealand they’re going back where they’ve got fibre-to-the-node and rolling out more fibre to their homes. The same thing is happening in the United States. I met a family the other day, in Victoria just out of Melbourne, that take their kids to McDonald’s every night. Not for the food, for the Wi-Fi. I met a nurse in my travels in this portfolio in Thornton, not far out of Newcastle, who has to climb onto the roof of her garage every week to download her roster. She has to take her laptop up, with the dongle in it, to find out when her next shift is. These are sorts of problems that you find right across Australia. It’s 21st century Australia and Malcom Turnbull’s rolling out 19th century technology. Fibre to the node is not going to cut it in the long term. That’s why we’re going to task Infrastruct ure Australia to provide us with a road map about where to next.

JOURNALIST: Just in light of the shooting in Orlando, a twelve-month ban on the Adler eight shot shotgun is due to expire soon would you like to see that ban extended and do you think that gun laws in Australia are adequate?

SHORTEN: Before I start immediately linking our gun laws in terms of Orlando, we want to get more facts. In terms of the Adler shotgun, I know this is a matter of review. I’ll be guided by the best advice of our law enforcement authorities. Again, I said when we were talking about the terror tragedy, in Orlando. We are bipartisan in this country, I believe, when it comes to gun law reform and think that one of the lasting legacies of John Howard was gun law reform. So we’ll be guided by the police agencies. I get that there’s a bit of an issue in some corners, where some gun enthusiasts say the Adler is okay, but there’s a lot of other people that say otherwise.

JOURNALIST: You’ve been forthright before in your assessments of Donald Trump in the past. What’s your response to his using the Orlando shooting to reiterate his cause for bans on Muslims going to the United States? 

SHORTEN: Is that what he’s said? I haven’t been keeping up on Trump. 

JOURNALIST: Both in tweets and in a statement he’s said that this shows I was right about the ban.

SHORTEN: Well I don’t agree, but again, I think they seem to do politics differently in America to Australia. I think there is a well understood convention in Australia that when you’ve had a tragedy of this level, that people have been murdered in a cowardly fashion, what we do is we let the families grieve. What we also do is let the law enforcement authorities understand what’s happened so they can prevent it again. But I do not equate demonising a whole group of people, a billion people based on faith, for the acts of stupid, random terror events such as this.

JOURNALIST: On the NBN, you were talking about these extra two million households. Could you give us any idea of where those households are likely to be? Will they be largely or heavily in rural areas? Or do you anticipate that most of them will be in outer suburban areas?

CLARE: What we’re announcing today is the number. Up to two million households and businesses will get fibre, rather than Malcom Turnbull’s slower copper version of the NBN. I think you’re very close to the mark. Many of these premises are in outer suburban parts of Australia but also in regional Australia as well. One of the decisions that we’ve made in putting this policy together is to keep using the HFC network, the Foxtel network, for want of a better description, that runs down the street of about 3 to 4 million homes around Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne as well as a few other parts of Australia. We’ve made the decision to keep that and upgrade it as the Government is proposing to do because when you weigh up that versus the copper version of the NBN it is better than the copper version of the NBN and also because Malcom Turnbull has signed long term agreements with Telstra about the upgrade o f that. They’ve invested billions of dollars into it. None of it has been switched on yet. They promised that 2.61 million homes would be connected to this HFC network by the end of this year, none have been switched on yet but the first gets switched on soon. Now many of those are in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Many of the areas that will benefit most from this policy are in regional Australia and outer suburban suburbs including more than 11,000 premises here in the electorate of Lindsay.

JOURNALIST: Mr Clare, on the Foxtel network, Stephen Conroy previously dubbed the Coalition’s plan to use that network, Operation Cluster Something, you’ve now adopted that plan, does that make your plan a Cluster Something and if not, what’s changed?

SHORTEN: I want to talk a little bit about that first because it goes to a deeper principle. If I am privileged enough to form a government after July 2, what I won’t do is pretend that this nation has to go back to the very start on every issue because I think that drives Australians crazy. What Australians want is more long term thinking and less short term thinking. So with the HFC network our research shows us that it is there and we are now not in a position to go back to 2013 or 2010 when some of those comments were made but we do also recognise that whilst Mr Turnbull has spoken about the HFC network, very little has happened. See, that’s the beauty of the Turnbull world, you can talk a lot but never actually have to do anything and really what we are left with is a mess of some significant proportions. So what we’ve said we’ll do is we will put better technology in ou r roll-out in the future. We will look at how we can improve on the existing system, but what we’re not going to do is go back to the start because we’re not filled with this sort of political desire to hate our political opponents to the extent that we have to say that everything that’s happened is stuff that we can’t use. That’s not who we are. 

CLARE: Bill, that’s absolutely right. What Stephen was pointing out was what I just pointed out which is that it is behind schedule as well. The fibre-to-the-node is off schedule but so is the HFC. It was supposed to have 2.61 million homes connected in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane to the HFC by the end of this year. Not one has been switched on yet. It is one of the reason why we believe that the Government’s slower, second rate version of the NBN is not going to meet its deadline of December 2020, it’s going to blow out to June 2022, It’s the long pole in the tent here, amongst a few others, which is going to cause more delays than the Government is saying publicly.   

JOURNALIST: In a seat like this, Lindsay, can you just explain how the preferencing between Liberals and Labor (inaudible)…

SHORTEN: With a bit of luck Emma will finish first and we will get preferences from people who don’t want to see a Liberal Member of Parliament. Again, in the House of Representatives, Labor normally finishes first or second in seats so quite frankly our preferences don’t get distributed. The truth of the matter though is that I’m optimistic that Emma is going to do well because if you care about the quality of schools in Lindsay you’re going to vote for Emma. If you want to see the NDIS rolled-out properly you vote for Emma. If you want to see bulk billing preserved in the suburbs of Western Sydney you’d vote for Emma. If you want to see NBN rolled-out on time and be high quality, first-class technology you’d vote for Emma. If you want to see proper jobs being created which protect penalty rates and the safety net of conditions, guess what, you’d vote for Emma. That’s our plan to win the seat of Lindsay.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, how are you feeling about having your Q&A out here in the west?

SHORTEN: Pumped, I’m looking forward to the questions. What I like doing is listening to people and answering their questions but also getting insights from them. In tonight’s Q&A I’m not sure that I’ll convince everyone on every answer I give but what I want is that that audience and indeed Australians that are watching it to get a better sense of the government I would lead. What we will absolutely do is stick to our social and economic program that we outlined before the election. We won’t be a high spending Government, we’re not going to spread a whole lot of new measures on Australians but what we will do is create a vision for Australia not just for the next three years but for the next 10 years. I’m really looking forward to Jason Clare being my minister for NBN to make sure that rolls out properly. I’m really looking forward to having Ed as one of my frontbenchers, working on i nnovation and making sure that young people and not so young people in the regions and in Western Sydney get the opportunities to be part of 21st century industries and growth. I’m really looking forward to having forthright representatives like Emma, who’s been at the frontlines, as an advocate for disability services, making sure that kids with special needs get properly funded in schools. That we ease the congestion challenges of Western Sydney, and that we’ve got a first class Medicare network. What I know and what I’ll be saying to the audience at Q&A is I welcome your questions. I don’t feel the need, when I speak to the audience on Q&A, to prove I’m the smartest person in the room. What I need to do is to demonstrate that I’ll hear their ideas, and their smarts, and bring them to reality.