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Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Page: 12395

Mr SECKER (BarkerOpposition Whip) (21:40): It is very interesting that the member for McEwen mentioned Senator Stephen Conroy, because I will be mentioning him as well—but in a far lesser light, shall I say. I rise tonight to speak about this government losing control of their NBN rollout and the rorting that is occurring.

Recently I was contacted by Richard and Denise Mahlo, who were building a retirement property in the Barossa region of my electorate. The Mahlos purchased a house and land package through a major developer, Hickinbottom, in the picturesque town of Nuriootpa in August. In September, the Mahlos were sent a bill for $2,500, which was later changed to $995 by Hickinbottom's affiliate, Construction Services Australia, and the Mahlos were told this cost was needed to make the house NBN compliant. What is more disturbing is Construction Services Australia went on to tell the Mahlos that if they were not interested in paying the $995, they would have to sign a disclaimer, warning that they would face 'long-term consequences'. This cost was apparently to have a home phone installed and have internet connections put in. If the couple did not proceed they were told there could be significant costs if they later changed their minds.

When the Mahlos contacted the NBN hotline number, the person was of no assistance and had no idea about this type of situation. The Australian quoted Hickinbotham Group estate manager Cassie Ostle as saying:

The advice the company had from the NBN was that a minimum requirement for a compliant connection was one data point for the internet and one phone point with quality cabling known as category six. The Housing Industry Association also advises that new dwellings should use this cabling.'

The Australian quoted Ms Ostle as saying:

The advice received from the NBN is that NBN cannot be connected unless wiring is in place inside the house.

The article continued:

Ms Ostle said the Barossa Estate was the first estate that would be connected to the NBN and future stages in the firm's other greenfield developments 'will have the same requirements'.

But NBN Co spokesman Andrew Sholl said the Nurioopta estate was 'not an NBN development', meaning 'we are not installing nor have been asked to install the fibre there'…

Mr Sholl was further quoted as saying:

'… in new developments, as in existing premises, people don't need additional internal wiring to be NBN compliant. We simply require access to a power point so that the (network termination device) power supply unit can be plugged in.'

It is my understanding that NBN Co. still has not signed construction contracts to begin work in South Australia. So not only do we have potential rorting happening, but the NBN is way behind schedule. According to the maps on NBN Co.'s website, there are no networks built, no work being undertaken and no planned rollouts in Barker in the next 12 months.

I am very concerned this is exactly the sort of rorting and cost blow-out the coalition warned communications minister Stephen Conroy about. The coalition has warned the government all along that the NBN was a big mistake and would end up costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

The Mahlos wrote to my office to thank me for my assistance. In their email, the Mahlos said they should be able to stand up for themselves without being dictated to by big companies. The Mahlos said they would rather spend their money at local businesses than on an internet service they did not want or need. On behalf of the Mahlos and all homeowners in Barker, I call on the minister to come clean about hidden costs and rorting and how many other people like the Mahlos have already been ripped off. What will the minister do to ensure that these rip-offs do not occur again in the future, and what will he do to help those already ripped off by this NBN system?