Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 8805

Broadband


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (14:50): My question is to the Minister for Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy.

Senator Conroy: That cost me 50 bucks. Fifty buck for Joe Ludwig—I have got two questions this year!

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! When the mirth has subsided, we will return to Senator Birmingham so he can ask his question.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Can the minister confirm that over the last two years, 60 per cent of NBN Co.'s key management personnel have resigned, including executives in charge of construction, executives in charge of network operations, executives in charge of business development, executives in charge of commercial strategy as well as the NBN Co. chief financial officer?





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) (14:51): Thank you, Mr President, and, apologies, Senator Ludwig, that is 50 bucks—two for the year! It is no surprise that those opposite have only asked their second question about the NBN of me this year, because they have so little to actually campaign on that they are reduced to drawing irrelevant additions and subtractions about how many staff have left the NBN.

Those opposite do not want to know about the 758,000 homes that we will have under construction or completed by the end of this year. What we have here is a transparent attempt to try and smear the NBN management yet again. It was not good enough for Mr Turnbull, a man who knows a great deal about financing—how much did Malcolm Turnbull pay the HIH liquidators back—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Conroy, you need to refer to people in the other place by their correct titles, you need to address your answer to the chair, and you need to address the question.

Senator CONROY: Through you, Mr President, how much did Mr Turnbull pay back the HIH liquidators over that debacle? How much did he pay back?

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Conroy, you need to address the question.

Senator CONROY: Mr Turnbull is well placed to want to talk about probity! But this is nothing more than another pathetic smear. Prices are cheaper than, or equal to, what are currently in the market. We are on target to beat our construction, and the quality of the NBN service is talked about in newspapers by customers across the land. Those opposite have got absolutely no credibility when it comes to wanting to smear NBN with some purported claim about people coming and going after three years. (Time expired)






Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (14:54): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Will the minister confirm that, of the nine directors of NBN Co., all of whom were hand picked by his government, three have already stepped down and a fourth will do so in December? Is it also correct that the only board member with hands-on telecom experience, Doug Campbell, left in 2010? Is this, to use the minister's own word, as irrelevant as the 60 per cent-plus staff turnover in key management personnel?


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) (14:54): I have noted the opposition's recent attack on some of the finest businesspeople in this country. They have attacked—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Conroy, resume your seat. When there is silence, we will proceed.

Senator CONROY: Those opposite have decided: 'We can't attack the pricing anymore, we can't attack the rollout anymore, we can't attack the quality of the service anymore, so what can we try and do? We'll start attacking management; we'll start attacking the board.' The board have signed off on their corporate plan. Have I had one single question since the corporate plan was released in this chamber? Not one, because those opposite are simply following Mr Abbott's line—that they intend to demolish the NBN. Do not believe what Mr Turnbull is trying to say. Those luddites over there— (Time expired)




Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (14:56): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister explain, if the senior executives of NBN Co. and the board members of NBN Co. can all see how shambolic the NBN is and are resigning in droves, how it is that Australians should have any confidence that this $50 billion project with revolving door leadership which has failed to meet any of its key targets to date, will indeed meet any targets anytime in the future?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! When there is silence we will proceed. Senators are aware that debate across the chamber is disorderly.



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): Those opposite attacked the government, attacked NBN Co. in February-March this year, and they said, 'They will never reach it. We will hold them to account. They won't reach 758,000 homes under construction or completed by December this year.' Well, as Mr Quigley told the joint parliamentary committee on Tuesday night, we are on target and we will meet 758,000. The corporate plan—

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator Chris Evans: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Brandis accused Mr Quigley of being a liar, which followed his earlier comment that 'all of their executives are crooks'. I ask you to ask him to withdraw both assertions.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brandis, you should withdraw that.

Senator Brandis: I withdraw.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! It would assist the chair if there were not this constant calling out that goes across the chamber. It is very hard to hear comments that go on across the chamber when I should be listening to the minister.

Senator CONROY: I commend Senator Brandis on withdrawing. I am sure that in the heat of the moment there are things we all say that we rather wish we had not, so I wanted to commend him for that, Mr President. Those opposite simply do not want to know the facts—758,000 homes commenced construction by December this year. The member for Wentworth will eat those words— (Time expired)