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Tuesday, 3 May 2016
Page: 4233


Mr FLETCHER (BradfieldMinister for Major Projects, Territories and Local Government) (16:29): This is the best that Labor has got on budget day. Labor is so bereft of a plausible story to tell on economic management that on the day the Australian people turn their attention to the vital question of which party has the better economic plan for Australia the best that Labor can come up with as a topic for a matter of public importance debate is this tired old piece of wishful thinking from the member for Blaxland.

The member for Blaxland dreams of an alternative universe in which Labor are competent administrators and the coalition are failing in their NBN roll-out plan. He hopes that, if he says it often enough, that alternative reality will come true. On 17 September 2015 the MPI topic was: 'The Prime Minister's mismanagement of the NBN'. He had another go on 21 October: 'The Prime Minister's second-rate NBN'. On 10 February this year: 'The Prime Minister failing Australians with his second-rate NBN'. And now he is trying again: 'The government's failure to deliver on the NBN for Australians'. The member for Blaxland can say it as often as he wants but it is just not true, because there are three fundamental propositions: firstly, Labor are hopeless on delivery; secondly, Labor were hopeless on the delivery of the national broadband network in their six years of government; and, thirdly, where Labor failed the coalition are delivering.

Let's turn to the question of Labor's proven hopelessness on delivery. It is frankly extraordinary that the Labor Party would come in here and voluntarily raise the topic of delivery on a policy promise. Let's just remind ourselves: on budget day, what promise comes to mind? 'The four years of surpluses I promise tonight.' Of course, did the member for Lilley deliver it? He delivered nothing. What about the naval ships and submarines? How much was delivered in six years? Oh, that would be nothing! Again, nothing! While we are talking about Labor's delivery record, what about Fuelwatch and GroceryWatch? What did that deliver? That delivered actually nothing. What about the Home Insulation Program? What did that deliver? Well, we do know, unfortunately, that it delivered house fires and, tragically, the deaths of four young Australians. What about border protection? What about Labor's complete failure to deliver when it came to border protection? Oh, they did deliver 50,000 illegal arrivals and over 1,000 deaths at sea. What about Labor's failed deal to send asylum seekers to Malaysia declared illegal by the High Court? What about the mining tax—the tax that failed to deliver just about any revenue.

What about Labor's GP superclinics? Remember Labor's GP superclinics? Twenty-eight were promised at the 2010 election and by 2013 one was operational. That is more than the ships they delivered. One was operational. What about ending the double drop-off? Remember the promise to end the double drop-off? In 2007 they promised to build 260 childcare centres under the 'end the double drop-off' policy. By February 2010 they had built three. What about trades training centres? They promised to build one of those in each of our 2,650 high schools. By February 2010, how many were operational? One. So it really is deeply ill-advised of the Labor Party to talk about delivery—the very topic they presume to raise in this matter of public importance debate this afternoon, because when it comes to delivery the Australian people know from the track record of the Labor Party that they are hopeless.

Let's turn specifically to their record of delivery when it comes to the National Broadband Network. What did they first promise in 2007? At that election they promised a network that was going to be 12 megabits per second; it was going to go to 98 per cent of the population; it was going to be fibre-to-the-node; and it was going cost taxpayers a mere $4.7 billion. What happened in April 2009? They had to admit that policy was a complete failure. They could not deliver on it. Are we noticing a theme about Labor? They are hopeless at delivery. What then happened in April 2009? Oh, a new policy. It was going to deliver fibre-to-the-premises to 12.2 million people—but there was still going to be private sector investment. Of course, by 2010 they had to admit that they could not get that, because the expert consultants report that they themselves commissioned said the private sector would not touch it with a barge pole. What did they deliver by September 2013 after six years in government? They had spent money. They had spent over $6 billion. Of the 12.2 million premises, how many actual connections were there when Labor left government in September 2013? Barely 50,000 premises had been connected. This was a rolled-gold implementation disaster. So it really is extraordinary that Labor should presume to come into this chamber and even raise the topic of delivery when their track record is absolutely dismal.

Now let us have a look at what the coalition has been doing since we have been in government in getting on to deliver the NBN. What is the first thing that we did? We put in a competent board of experienced telecommunication professionals, because, bizarrely, there were no people on the NBN board who knew much about telecommunications. They did not have the expertise. We brought in a competent board chaired by Ziggy Switkowski, a former CEO of Telstra and a former CEO of Optus. Then we brought in a competent management team led by Bill Morrow, a former CEO of Vodafone in Australia of Vodafone and other network business all around the world. Step 1: competent board. Step 2: competent management team. Next step: let's get a credible roll-out plan, multitechnology mix, fibre-to-the-premises, fibre-to-the-node and HFC. Let's say that it turns out that the hybrid fibre coax network built in the nineties is capable at modest cost of being upgraded to 100 megabits per second. It turns out that is what the technical expertise advised us. That might be a slightly better idea than Labor's insanely wasteful and fundamentally stupid idea of paying both Telstra and Optus—in Telstra's case billions; in the case of my former employer Optus, over $800 million—to tear down a working network. That is why once a team of credible, experienced telecommunications professionals got in there they said: 'This is a sensible way to proceed—multitechnology mix.' How is it going? Well, you can find out very easily, because every week the roll-out numbers are reported on the internet on the company's website—something that never happened in Labor's a time. Quarter after a quarter—seven quarters in a row—NBN has met the financial targets and the roll-out targets that it has set for itself. Did that ever happen under Labor? No. They never met their targets. Why? Because they had no idea what they were doing. Let's look at the number of Australians who are now able to connect to this network. It is almost two million premises. That compares to barely 50,000 people who were connected to the network when Labor left government. It is now two million premises.

This is a tough, complex job. There is more to do, but we are getting on with it. We are now seeing the fibre-to-the-node rollout continuing at over 10,000 premises a week, and that number will rise continually over coming months and years. This is a challenging rollout. We are getting on with the job. We are delivering the NBN. It is, frankly, an extraordinary proposition from the Labor Party to come in here and even begin to raise the topic of delivery. The Australian people know, when it comes to the NBN, or when it comes to any other aspect of Labor's dismal track record, that you cannot trust Labor on the NBN.

But the most interesting question is: what is Labor's plan? What is Labor actually going to do with the National Broadband Network should it get into government? What is Labor going to do? It is quite interesting. What did the Leader of the Opposition say when he was asked this question at a forum televised on Sky News? He said:

We won't rip up everything that Mr Turnbull has done because I think … not everything the Liberals do is bad. So we will do a hybrid of some of what he's done but we will have in our announcement, which we will be putting pretty soon, a greater proportion of the use of fibre and we will also look at the proportions of fibre and we think we can provide more of that to more Australians.

What does that actually mean? What it means is that it is the multitechnology mix. It is a mix of fibre to the premises, fibre to the node, fibre to the distribution point, HFC—hybrid fibre coaxial—all of the elements being brought together to get the NBN rolled out as quickly as possible. The Leader of the Opposition has effectively conceded is that ours is the best plan. Ours is a plan that is delivering, and the most sensible thing for Labor to do, should they get back into government, would be to maintain the plan. That is essentially what he signalled Labor is going to do. Labor are very unwise to be talking about delivery because on the NBN—and everything else—their track record is dismal. On this side of the House, we are delivering. (Time expired)