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Monday, 21 November 2011
Page: 9001

Broadband


Senator POLLEY (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:56): My question is to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy. Is the minister aware of any independent analysis of proposed broadband plans other than the NBN?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:57): I thank the senator for her question and for her ongoing interest in the NBN. As it happens, I am aware of an independent analysis of Mr Turnbull and Mr Abbott's broadband plan. Just recently, the global banking giant Citigroup released its analysis of the coalition policy, a policy that those in the chamber might be interested to learn was described as 'quick and dirty'. This analysis demonstrates what we in the Gillard government have known for some time—that is, this opposition is the most economically ignorant we have seen for a considerable time. The Citigroup report makes it obvious that Mr Turnbull and the opposition have not costed their broadband plan. They have not costed the construction of their substandard, mixed technology solution which Citigroup estimates at—wait for it—$16.7 billion on budget. They have not costed their promise to structurally separate Telstra, which Catherine Livingstone, the chair of Telstra, recently priced at $11 billion. Mr Turnbull claims that he knows best. He knows best that Telstra is worth more separated than together. Do not worry about the 99.45 per cent of Telstra shareholders who voted for the NBN deal, Mr Turnbull knows best. He knows better than the board; he knows better than the shareholders. Seriously, Mr Turnbull must think he is giving advice to Rodney Adler and Ray Williams over the value of FAI again. He knows best. (Time expired)


Senator POLLEY (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:59): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I appreciated that answer from the minister. Can the minister inform the Senate whether the analysis he referred to says anything about what the other broadband plan means for regional Australia?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:59): The Citigroup report has a great deal to say about the coalition's broadband plan for rural Australia. It says that regional Australians will suffer from higher prices and poor service choice under the coalition. And I quote:

… we are concerned the need for private sector to generate commercial returns will continue to limit broadband development in regional areas.

It goes on to say:

… the Coalition Policy risks the possibility of skewing telecommunications infrastructure investment and competition towards densely populated areas as is the case today.

So to the Nationals, who originally claimed the NBN policy as their own and have now been caught out by Citigroup analysis, I pose the following question: when will you stand up to those in the Liberal Party machine? (Time expired)


Senator POLLEY (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (15:00): Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. Does the analysis the minister refers to raise any concerns about the future viability of the other broadband plan?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (15:01): Indeed it does. It says that there are grave concerns of the viability of the coalition's plan, not least of which, according to the Citigroup report, is the view expressed that the coalition's fibre-to-the-node network will be obsolete by the time it is built. Not only will it be obsolete, it will also be a colossal waste of taxpayer's money. As Citigroup says, fibre to the node is not an upgrade path to fibre to the home. They say that if the coalition policy is implemented it would simply delay an eventual national fibre-to-the-home build. In other words, the coalition is proposing to spend $16.7 billion on a policy that will be obsolete and will need to be replaced shortly thereafter by a fibre-to-the-home deployment. Those opposite are economically illiterate and technologically illiterate. (Time expired)

Senator Chris Evans: Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.