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Thursday, 25 November 2010
Page: 2230


Senator RONALDSON (2:27 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy. Page 22 of the NBN Co. business case summary has assumed a count of 9.6 million national residential premises this year. Where does the NBN Co. draw this data from? Also, where are interest payments accounted for in the business case summary?


Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) —As I was saying earlier, a range of information has been provided. The government has been committed and remains committed to passing the legislation around these issues. Following a series of detailed discussions with the Independent senators, we decided that to facilitate the passage of this bill we would compromise and provide some of the information that is available and that can sensibly be made available at this time. I am defining that it would be irresponsible, not sensible, to release information that would jeopardise ongoing commercial negotiations with Telstra, ongoing commercial negotiations with other carriers or ongoing commercial negotiations with construction companies on construction costs.


Senator Ronaldson —Mr President, I take a point of order on relevance. These were two quite clear questions that require an answer. Where does the NBN Co. draw this data from on the count of 9.6 million national residential premises? And where are interest payments accounted for in the document?


Senator Ludwig —Mr President, on the point of order: the minister was being directly relevant to the question. The question was asked about the business case. The minister is responding to the question asked and I humbly submit there is no point of order.


The PRESIDENT —Senator Conroy, you have been going for just over a minute. You have 51 seconds remaining to address the question that has been asked of you.


Senator CONROY —As I was saying, Mr Quigley has repeatedly made clear the dangers that there could be in releasing some of this information, and those opposite are being absolutely irresponsible in their ridiculous demands. Senator Ronaldson was drawing from page 22 of the business case, where it states:

Total premise sizing has been based on G-NAF (Geocoded National Address File) national address index, which uses multiple address sources including Government land records, Australia Post and the Australian Electoral Commission. In conjunction with work carried out—

(Time expired)


Senator RONALDSON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware that ABS data on household numbers indicates that there are only 8.35 million households in Australia in 2010? How does the NBN Co. know about 1.25 million more residential premises—in effect, a lost city about the size of Perth—than the ABS does?


Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) —The document goes on to say:

In conjunction with work carried out by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, NBN Co has assumed a starting national premise count of 10.9 million—

in 2010—

comprising 9.6 million residential premises and 1.3 million business premises.


Senator RONALDSON —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. With an assumed take-up rate of 69 per cent, doesn’t this overestimation of residential premise numbers mean that NBN Co. has also overestimated their number of customers by more than 850,000? Doesn’t this make a complete and utter mockery of the so-called ‘conservative’ estimates in the business case?


Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) —Senator Ronaldson is seeking to draw from one source. As the document I have quoted from says, there is a range of sources. I am prepared to back the information in the business plan against Senator Ronaldson’s posturing, because at the end of the day what those opposite are about is opposing and wrecking the National Broadband Network. They had 11½ years to try to do something about broadband and the declining fortunes of this country when they were in government, and they failed miserably. They are up to their 20th broadband plan, and the good news is that it is three dot points—after nearly 15 years on broadband, they have a policy of three dot points. (Time expired)