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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 8865

Senator RONALDSON (Victoria) (17:53): The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, of course, has oversight of the NBN. As I was saying earlier on, the Golden Plains Shire Council is also reported to have been bullied by NBN Co., with NBN Co. defaulting the town of Napoleons to slower satellite services rather than reconsidering where to build an NBN communications tower proposed for their town. Many rural areas across these electorates have also been overlooked on the basis that it is too expensive to roll out the NBN in low-density housing areas, effectively leaving many rural areas behind.

'Too expensive' does not seem to be a problem for NBN Co. in other ways, though. As has been pointed out, they have paid their board and key executives $26 million over the past three years and $640,000 in bonuses for the past year. How could you possibly pay anyone a bonus on the back of what we have heard about how far behind this rollout is and what the cost has been? It absolutely beggars belief. There are approximately 1,620 employees, so I am told, earning an average of $175,000 as of June this year.

There is $20 million of advertising for the NBN ahead of next year's election. That is despite cuts to other programs exceeding a billion dollars plus in 2012-13. We have already heard today issues about Barwon Health in Geelong, with their funding being slashed, which undoubtedly will impact on services in Geelong. Quite rightly, the Liberal candidate for Corangamite, Sarah Henderson, has been very, very angry about this and expressed her anger on behalf of her community, where we have seen these cuts.

It is interesting: the NBN Co.'s own executive apparently are not convinced themselves about where they are going. It is not just us but also the executive. Five of the eight directors recruited in 2009-10 to run NBN Co. have resigned. Five out of the eight directors recruited two years ago have resigned. This is a clear example of Labor's waste and mismanagement; their complete and utter disregard for rural Australians; and their complete and utter disregard for those people who have chosen to live outside the major metropolitan areas, who have the same entitlement to these services who live in capital cities. Why is it that regional and rural Australians should suffer? Why is it that rural and regional Australians should suffer from the sort of waste and complete and utter mismanagement we have seen in relation to the NBN Co.? Why are they the ones ultimately paying for this? It is completely unreasonable.

Look at the advertising program for the NBN—to advertise failure, effectively—and also look at the carbon tax advertising. I think the total by the end of this financial year will be some $110 million. Isn't that a coincidental figure! It is exactly what the cost would be of giving fair indexation to men and women on DFRDB and DFRB, who are currently not getting proper and fair indexation. Those who have served this country are not deserving, apparently, of fair indexation. Those who have served this country are not deserving of having their indexation of the military superannuation on the same basis as aged pensioners and service pensioners, but we can spend $20-odd billion on NBN advertising and $110 million on carbon tax advertising. So exactly where are the priorities?

We have a government that is wasting money on advertising and a government that will not look after our own military superannuants. We have a government who are letting down regional and rural Australia quite dramatically, not just in relation to the NBN and telecommunications but also, as we know, to health. Geelong, a major regional centre, has had budgets slashed and services reduced. That can be the only outcome of this. This is a government that is on the teat of debt. There is $150-odd billion of net debt at the moment. Who knows where it will finish up? It took the last coalition government 10 years to pay off $96 billion. Our children are probably going to require twice or three times that to pay off this bill of waste and mismanagement. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.