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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 9710

National Broadband Network


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (14:45): My question is to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy. Noting the minister's enthusiasm, I hope he will be able to answer the two very precise questions that I have. Will the minister inform the Senate exactly how much has been spent over the last five years in establishing and building the National Broadband Network. Further, noting the minister's statement in response to Senator Cameron's question earlier that there are now 30,000 connections to the NBN, will the minister inform the Senate how many of those connections are via a fibre network?


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) (14:46): Clearly, we touched a nerve last week when we mentioned there being only two questions for the year. To take the second question, I think that I said it should be past 30,000 by this week. That is my expectation. Over 7,000 of those are on fibre, but hopefully I will have an updated figure for you by tomorrow or the next day. What that reflects is that the satellite service is absolutely being taken up by Australians across regional and rural Australia. The figure that you can put in the bank is that NBN Co will be under construction or completed in 758,000 homes by the end of December.

And what did Mr Turnbull say and what did those opposite say back in February-March when we announced that figure? They said there is no way that they could reach 758,000 under construction or completed. Well, I am looking forward to Malcolm Turnbull's press release—

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Conroy. You need to refer to people in the other place by their correct title.

Senator Brandis: Mr President, I rise on a point of order on the question of direct relevance. The minister was asked two questions. The second of those two questions he answered over a minute ago. There is only one question left: that is, how much has been spent in the last five years building the NBN? That is the only other question that remains outstanding and he should be drawn to it.

The PRESIDENT: The minister is answering the question. The minister still has 38 seconds remaining to answer the question.

Senator CONROY: I am not surprised that Senator Brandis is on his feet after that complete debacle that masqueraded as question time tactics last week.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Just answer the question, Senator Conroy.

Senator CONROY: I am not surprised that he had to get up and try to get a point. The amount spent on the NBN changes every single day. I am happy to get you the corporate plan. I am happy to get you the report to the joint parliamentary committee, but it changes every single day. I am happy to get you as much information as is available. (Time expired)








Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (14:49): Speaking of the corporate plan the minister was mentioning, will the minister confirm that the 2010 NBN corporate plan promised 511,000 premises would be connected via fibre by June 2013, but that this was downgraded—

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I need to hear the question.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: in the revised corporate plan to a target of just 54,000 premises? Given the minister has now only achieved 7,000—some 13 per cent of the target—how can anybody believe that will be achieved by June next year?




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) (14:50): This is just embarrassing. Senator Birmingham tried this on with Mr Quigley and the NBN team just recently. Mr Quigley tabled all of the information on this matter to show that we are in the ramp-up phase. Mr Quigley demonstrated categorically where the NBN is going and where it has been. This is just another gutless attack to try to pretend that they know something about the NBN.

I can disclose to the chamber that the Liberal New South Wales government is building a $10 billion toll road to be completed in 2020. Do you know, not one car will drive on it until 2020? Not one car will actually go across this toll road until it is completed in 2020, after spending $10 billion—because you have actually got to build it before you can drive on it! It is exactly the same with the NBN: you have to build a core network— (Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Resume your seat, Senator Conroy. Order! When there is silence on both sides, we will proceed.



Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (14:51): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given the emphasis the minister has just put on building it, will he confirm that the 2010 NBN corporate plan promised 1.269 million premises would be passed by fibre by June 2013 but that this was also downgraded in the revised corporate plan to a target of just 341,000 premises, just a quarter of the original promise? Minister, how are you going to connect all these extra premises when you cannot even meet any of your building time lines?


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) (14:52): Mr President, these questions have been repeated ad nauseam by Senator Birmingham and Mr Turnbull. They try to pretend that the 2010 corporate plan is still relevant. It was outdated two years later. The new corporate plan, with a start date that included nine months of extra negotiating with Telstra to get the best possible deal for taxpayers, has just been wished away. The global financial crisis did not happen! Nine months of extra negotiations with Telstra did not happen! The ACCC's decision on points of interconnect did not happen! So when the 2012 plan came out we said we would meet 758,000 under construction or completed, and that is what we are doing. Those opposite keep trying to pretend that you can just plug fibre into the house and connect it to the network. You have to build the core infrastructure first. (Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: If senators on both sides wish to debate the issue, the time to debate it is after question time.