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Thursday, 24 March 2011
Page: 1830


Senator JOYCE (Leader of the Nationals in the Senate) (8:25 PM) —I think it is important to get a couple of things on the record. Quite obviously, we can see where the numbers are on this. It is going to go through and I suppose the sooner issues are brought to a head, the better. It seems inevitable. But there are a couple of things that I think should be put on the record to do with service provision and a whole range of issues. There are a whole range of queries and now is as good a time as any to ask them.

When we first had a look at this, Baulderstone Hornibrook said they would build a service across the nation for $7 billion—that was for the whole lot. We are always rather amazed at the extent of inflation. The question I want the minister to answer, just so we can finally clarify this, is: how much is this actually going to cost to build? How much is the entity actually borrowing to do this? If the commercial plan, unbeknownst to you or to anybody else, does not stand up, is the taxpayer underwriting this and having to pick up the bill and pay it all back? Why are you building a service of fibre to the home when you could provide it to the node and provide a wireless service from there and really trim your costs? And why are you providing a service in cities? Why did you not start at the outside—in the country, where the service is not—and put the optic fibre around the optic fibre trunk lines around the country and then concentrate on the cities at a later stage? You might have even been able to get the market to look after if for you and avoid the costs.