Radio Interview – RN Breakfast





MONDAY, 13 JUNE 2016

SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan to build the National Broadband Network that Australia needs to create the jobs of the future; Preferences.

FRAN KELLY: Jason Clare is the Shadow Minister for Communications, he joins me in the breakfast studio. Jason Clare good morning.


KELLY: Two million more homes will get what’s called now the Rolls Royce NBN from Labor for no extra money. That sounds like a magic trick how do you intend to do that?

CLARE: We’ve been saying now for about 12 months that we will rollout more fibre. We are announcing today we can rollout out more fibre to up to two million more Australian homes and businesses. We will do that with the same taxpayer  investment of $29.5 billion. The Government has set a total cap for this project of $56 billion, we are setting a cap of $57 billion. The reason we can do that is because while the capital cost of building fibre-to-the-premises is higher, the operational cost of running it is lower because you don’t have the cost of fixing the old Telstra copper, you don’t have the electricity bills that come with running those 30,000 nodes – 30,000 boxes around the country. You also have a higher revenue.

KELLY: We are in the rollout phase?

CLARE:  No, we believe that the time it will take to build Malcolm Turnbull’s copper NBN will be the same time it will take to do this, which is the middle of 2022.

KELLY: No they say 2020 actually, you say it’s going to be 2022.

CLARE: Our analysis indicates that that is wrong. You look at the ramp up that Malcolm Turnbull has set for this and it looks like a ramp Evel Knievel couldn’t jump. The HFC network which is a part of both Party’s program, expects to link about 2.61 million homes to the NBN by the end of this year. They haven’t switched on one yet. So that is massively behind schedule and the reason why we believe they won’t finish until mid-2022.

KELLY: Why do you believe that you will be able to be any more efficient, because I think the Rudd Government’s initial promise was 2016 wasn’t it? To be past X number million homes and you got nowhere near that. So everyone falls behind schedule. The biggest point here though is that you are promising to get to two million homes by 2022.

CLARE:   That’s right. Up to.

KELLY: That brings us to about 40 percent coverage, that’s way short of the 93% coverage Labor promised back in 2007. So are you happy to concede now that Labor way over promised, and way under costed the original project.

CLARE:   No. The point I’d make Fran is that if we win the election on the 2nd of July I can’t just click my fingers  and expect that all of those nodes Malcolm Turnbull is building will just disappear. We are where we are, he’s built –

KELLY: We are where we are too because the original NBN rollout didn’t get anywhere near as far as you’d promised.

CLARE:  They’ve had almost three years on this. Malcolm Turnbull has doubled the cost of the project, doubled the time it will take. He said everyone would have it this year, now they are saying 2020 – we think 2022. Less than 20 percent of the country has the NBN, which is why I say if you are still buffering blame Malcolm Turnbull. Over that time we have gone from 30th in the world for internet speeds to 60th in the world for internet speeds. We think that we can roll out more fibre to up to two million Australian homes but the fact is –

KELLY: So how many homes is that then, by 2022 that would have fibre-to-the-home?

CLARE:  There are about 12 million homes and businesses that will be connected to the NBN. Under Malcolm Turnbull’s model only 20 percent of Australians get the real NBN. We think we can almost double that to about 39 percent.

KELLY: Is that an acknowledgement that the original costs were way under budgeted?

CLARE:   No. Let me reinforce that point again. Malcolm Turnbull spent $15 billion over the last three years rolling out this slower, second rate version of the NBN. He’s also now got about 1.3 million homes under construction for his copper version of the NBN. Now if we were to just say stop, don’t do that anymore right now then that would slow down construction of the NBN. So what we are saying is phase that out. Flush the pipe. Scale back up the rollout  of Fibre-to-the-Premises which NBN has been doing for most of the last five years.

KELLY: So what happens if you won government, you’d phase that down, you’d transfer that to fibre-to-the-home. What about all those people that are on Fibre-to-the-Node now? How long will they have to wait for an upgrade?

CLARE:  The second part of our policy which we are announcing today is that we will get the independent body Infrastructure Australia to provide a report to Government on how and when you would finish the job, go back to those areas and roll out fibre. The fact is Fran if you go and look at New Zealand they’ve already got Fibre-to-the-Node but now they are rolling out Fibre-to-the-Premises. Go to the United States you will see that AT&T  rolled out Fibre-to-the-Node ten years ago, they are now going back and rolling out Fibre-to-the-Premises. We are going to have to do the same thing here. Most of Asia, most of Europe, America, Canada, New Zealand they are all in front of us in internet speeds. This means we are less productive, less competitive, less set up to make sure we get the jobs of the future.

KELLY: As we all saw in the Q and A  debate out of Tamworth recently, the issue of the NBN and coverage to regional and rural Australia is red hot. This is going to do nothing  for NBN coverage for the bush is it?

CLARE:   No, no quite the reverse. 

KELLY: So what will you be doing?

CLARE:  You will see Fran over the next two weeks that many of these two million premises are in regional Australia.

KELLY: What sort of places, which towns?

CLARE:   I talked about HFC a moment ago, the Foxtel network that we are going to keep and use.

KELLY: I thought you’ve been critical of the Turnbull Government and the HFC network.

CLARE:  Too slow in switching it on. Their supposed to have 2.61 million  homes connected to it this year, they haven’t switched on one yet. The first gets switched on soon. But given the billions they have invested in that  and given the fact that when you compare Fibre-to-the-Node it’s better, we have decided to keep that.

KELLY: What about in terms of the bush?

CLARE:  In terms of the bush.

KELLY: Most of them are dependent on satellite.

CLARE:  No. When you look at HFC that’s mainly in the cities. These two million homes you’ll see are in the outer suburban areas of our major cities and also in regional Australia.

KELLY: Like which centres? Can you name them?

CLARE:  I’m not going to name them all today but you’ll see that as we announce them over the course of the next few weeks.

KELLY: Any money in your project for better satellite coverage?

CLARE:  Just on the satellite because 10 percent of the NBN is providing access to people in the bush in remote parts of Australia via satellite but also via fixed wireless towers. Now that was the original Labor model. We announced that we would purchase two satellites in order to provide NBN access to people in rural Australia. Malcolm Turnbull didn’t want to go ahead with that but the contracts were signed. The first one is in orbit  providing services, now the second goes into orbit later this year. 

KELLY: Ok we are speaking with Jason Clare, Labor’s Shadow Communications Minister today he and Bill Shorten will rollout Labor’s NBN policy. On another issue Jason Clare, the Greens and Nick Xenophon say Labor’s done a dirty deal over preferences. The Libs will preference Labor ahead of the Greens in all 150 lower house seats and Labor will preference the Liberals ahead of the Nationals in at least three cornered contests. Will Labor also be preferencing the Liberal’s ahead of the Nick Xenophon Team in South Australian seats?

CLARE:  No, my understanding is not. I understand that they will be open tickets there. 

KELLY: So we have the Liberal Party currently announcing it will help Labor win seats, we have the Liberal Party  win some seats, is this the duopoly, the Coles and Woolies of Federal Politics working together to keep the smaller players out?

CLARE:  Fran think about it like this, one of two parties is going to run the country after the 2nd of July, it’s either the Liberals or it’s the Labor Party. The Labor Party is the left of centre, progressive party that has got the policies that Australia needs to set us up for the future. People will ultimately have a choice, one or the other. If people vote for a minor party or an independent, put that number one, it’s which party they pick as number two which will ultimately determine who wins this election. What I say as a member of the Labor Party frontbench is if you want a better education for your kids,  if you want to protect Medicare and bulk billing – make sure you don’t have to pay $20 to go to the doctor, that that green card in your purse or your wallet still works and if you want more affordable child care then vote Labor on the second of July.

KELLY: Jason Clare thank you very much for joining us.

CLARE:  Thanks Fran.