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Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Page: 11996

National Broadband Network

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (14:25): My question is to the Prime Minister. Last night in Senate estimates it was revealed that the government has already ordered 1,800 kilometres worth of copper to make its second-rate nbn work. That is almost enough copper to run between here and Alice Springs! Prime Minister, how much more copper will you need to make your second-rate version of the nbn work? And why is the government investing in 20th century copper when Australia really needs a 21st century national broadband network?

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Members on my right! The Treasurer! The Leader of the House!

Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (14:25): Bipartisanship really is in the air! I cannot thank the Leader of the Opposition enough for that question!

Mr Champion interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Wakefield!

Mr TURNBULL: I have to say that for two years as the communications minister I got, I think, two or maybe three questions. Now, I had to become Prime Minister to get a question on the nbn from the Labor Party! It is fantastic!

Let me answer his question. I will treat it as what it should be—a polite request for information. The design of the fibre-to-the-node network does require some new copper to connect the nodes to the existing pillars. That is simply part of the architecture.

Mr Champion: It's going to make statues!

Mr TURNBULL: The nbn has ordered additional copper, but I have to say that so far the existing copper network between the nodes to customers' houses has not required anything like the level of remediation that had been assumed.

Now, it is early days, but it may be that rumours of the terrible state of the Telstra copper network have been a little exaggerated.

Mr Danby: You were the one who exaggerated!

Mr TURNBULL: But time will tell. The simple fact of the matter is this: had we continued with the Labor Party's approach to the nbn, the project would have taken another $30 billion more and taken six to eight years longer. That is a fact.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Members on my left!

Mr TURNBULL: I know that the opposition love to live in Conrovia! This project has been carefully restructured. It is under capable management. It is being carefully examined by the management. The reality is that at the time the Labor Party set this project up, and right up until earlier this year—even then—the company did not know how much it was costing to do its work. Every figure that came out of that business was questionable.

At the time of the election, so out of control was this company—so out of control was the Labor government—that they thought it was costing $2,200 in capital costs to connect premises with fibre. In reality, then and now, the direct capital costs are about $3,700. They did not even know what it was costing!

Ms Rowland: You got your mates to tell you!

Mr TURNBULL: I hear honourable members shouting out—

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Members on my right! The member for Gippsland! The Leader of the House will cease interjecting, as will the Minister for Agriculture!

Mr Albanese: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order—on relevance. It was a very specific question: the question was about why copper instead of fibre. I know it is Back to the Future day—

The SPEAKER: There is no point of order. The member for Grayndler will resume his seat.

Mr TURNBULL: Even though there was a brief interregnum, as I mentioned earlier, when the honourable member was the Minister for Communications, he is still, at least in telecommunications matters, very much a Conrovian. The simple fact of the matter is this: if Labor were to win the next election then Australians who are waiting for good broadband now would have to wait up to eight years longer. Labor's policy is more money and more waiting. (Time expired)

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for McEwen will cease interjecting! The member for Melbourne Ports is a particularly active interjector today. He will cease interjecting. I have asked the member for Wakefield to cease interjecting. He is now warned. He interjected repeatedly through that answer.