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Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Page: 6089

Broadband


Senator CAROL BROWN (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:10): My question is to Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy. Can the minister provide the Senate with advice on how other countries are addressing the need for broadband? How do they vary from the approach being pursued to build the National Broadband 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) (14:11): Merci, Monsieur President. Vive la France! I thank the senator for her question and for her interest in broadband policy. Countries all around the world recognise the economic importance of broadband infrastructure, but progress on delivering high-speed broadband is slow. It is slow in countries that are relying upon their incumbent telcos to deliver on these ambitions.

When Telstra had the monopoly on fixed-line infrastructure, they were slow to embrace broadband as well. Incumbent telcos favour fibre to the node—not because it is efficient or effective but because it is cheap and preserves their market power. Five years ago, Alcatel-Lucent published a technology white paper that compared the cost of building fibre to the node versus going all the way to the home. The member for Wentworth misuses this report and his discussions with BT to claim that his FTTN costs one-third of fibre to the home. That claim can be made only when an incumbent is building the node network. But that is not Mr Turnbull's plan.

Last night on Lateline, Mr Turnbull confirmed that he proposes that the government-owned NBN Co. will acquire the ageing, corroding copper network from Telstra with its $1 billion a year maintenance cost. They are going to buy back the copper! Mr Turnbull should stop misleading. (Time expired)


Senator CAROL BROWN (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:13): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware of any alternative proposals for the Australian government to build, own and operate a broadband 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) (14:13): The member for Wentworth said in an address to the Broadband World Forum in Paris—what a coincidence; he must have been checking out some shares—in September last year:

We will seek to achieve an outcome where facilities based competition is restored and enabled, not prohibited and where the provision of network services is undertaken by the private sector, not the government

The Leader of the Opposition joined him in this criticism, telling the AIG national forum in November:

The National Broadband Network is a great leap backwards to the 1960s; a government controlled telecommunications infrastructure monopoly …

But last night, Mr Turnbull confirmed his plan for NBN to acquire Telstra's copper to build its network. So let there be no misunderstanding: NBN Co. under Mr Turnbull will be a government-owned monopoly.


Senator CAROL BROWN (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:14): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister aware of any further details of the alternative policies?


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) (14:15): The member for Wentworth reportedly told the Financial Review this week that he has a fully costed policy ready to go. You might ask why on earth wouldn't Mr Turnbull release it now. Why is he saying that it is going to be released closer to the election? Is it because it is taking him that long to explain it to Mr Abbott? Is it because he is having to explain to Mr Abbott—the self-confessed 'I'm not Bill Gates'—what an upload speed, a download speed and a node are? Mr Turnbull has zero credibility—except in investment advice. Last night on Lateline Mr Turnbull advised us that France Telecom shares were good value. So get on board, Mr President—France Telecom shares are good value, according to Mr Turnbull! (Time expired)