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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 13767

Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (10:45): On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network I present the committee’s report entitled Review of the rollout of the National Broadband Network—second report, together with the minutes of proceedings.

In accordance with standing order 39(f) the report was made a parliamentary paper.

Mr OAKESHOTT: by leave—This is the second report to examine the detailed performance measures provided by NBN Co. and government. It allows direct comparisons to be made between the foundation documents of NBN Co.'s corporate plan 2011-13 and shareholder ministers' letter to NBN Co. of 17 December 2011.

The committee noted the financial result of a lower than expected capital expenditure and higher than expected operating expenditure than set out in the NBN Co. corporate plan. These figures could be an early warning that it is costing NBN Co. more to do less than was forecast in the corporate plan.

The committee, however, has accepted that there are reasons for the differences, but it will watch these figures closely. Value for money for taxpayers is the critical key performance indicator in turning this good concept into an even better reality.

Because there are unresolved issues between various stakeholders and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the NBN rollout time frame set out in NBN Co.'s corporate plan has slightly slipped. Providing certainty for markets, investors and consumers demands greater attention from government to resolve outstanding regulatory issues so that no further slippages occur.

If these outstanding matters can be addressed quickly, 2012 does have the potential to be the year of the NBN. The move from test sites to broader rollout will engage more people, and see more retail engagement and more innovative strategies and products introduced into Australia.

Regional and remote Australia will then finally have the opportunity, through the next steps of satellite, wireless and fibre-to-the-premises, to be better engaged in the economy and services.

The committee's last recommendation called for better engagement with the NBN for low-income households and other disadvantaged groups, so that these opportunities can turn into real, ongoing and substantial change for the better in rural and remote communities.

Before making some general comments, I would like to summarise our other recommendations. The first of these asks the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy to revise the presentation of its six-monthly reports on KPIs to enable information to be compared across years.

Recommendation 2 requests the department to review its clearance processes to ensure that answers to questions on notice asked by the 57 committee members are provided on the due date.

Two recommendations deal with a subject close to my heart, the rollout of the NBN in regional and remote Australia. Recommendation 3 urges NBN Co. to publicise as a matter of urgency its policy and costings for extensions to its planned rollout of fibre, so that isolated communities are aware of how much NBN Co. would charge them.

Recommendation 4 emphasises the importance of NBN Co.'s consultation about the rollout of the NBN. During its hearing in Broken Hill in July, the committee heard from several witnesses from that region about the lack of information from NBN Co. about the NBN generally and about likely connection dates.

While we are aware that the NBN is at an early stage of rollout, it should be clear that four of our five recommendations seek to improve the flow of information from NBN Co. and the department.

This focus arose from two concerns.

Firstly, while regional and remote Australia particularly needs reliable and fast broadband, communities all over the country have until recently had no idea when they might be connected to the NBN. While NBN Co. has a public education program, it was only with the release of its 12-month national rollout plan, on 18 October, that many communities had definite information on when they might be connected to the NBN.

The committee notes that NBN Co. plans to release its three-year indicative rollout 'early next year'. Annual updates, combined with education and consultation programs, may provide communities with greater certainty about likely connection dates.

Secondly, some of the delays in receiving material from the department have been unacceptable. The committee was concerned that, if these persisted, delays in the receipt of material on KPIs would continue to hamper its work of reviewing the rollout of the NBN.

While this report was being cleared through the committee, we became aware of a major change to the term of the interim agreement that retail service providers have to sign with NBN Co. Neither the department nor NBN Co. saw fit to advise us of this significant matter, as just one example of the process at the moment that the committee is concerned about.

I would like to thank all committee members, all 57 of them as I mentioned before, for continuing to focus on Australia's need for speed in the development of information communication technology over and above all other policy or political considerations, and what is one of the hotly contested issues in this place.

I would also thank the secretariat, who are here today, again for their work on what is a challenging public policy oversight role. As it is the appropriate time of year at present, I say Merry Christmas to all in the secretariat and thank you for your ongoing work.

I commend the report to the House.