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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 1284

Broadband


Senator McLUCAS (Queensland) (14:11): My question is to the Minister for Communications, Senator Fifield. In this place on 22 February this year the minister said that the rollout of the Prime Minister's copper NBN was 'accelerating'. But NBN documents dated 19 February 2016 reveal that the Prime Minister's copper NBN is in crisis and that nbn co has failed to meet even a third of its internal rollout target. Was the minister informed that the NBN rollout was behind schedule before or after he made his statement?

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order, on my left!



Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications and Minister for the Arts) (14:12): I thank Senator McLucas for her question. I think colleagues would be aware that perhaps Senator Conroy and Mr Clare in the other place have been getting around the place from time to time, opening up their trench coats, saying to walking journalists going past them, 'Psst, psst, I've got something here.'

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: On my left! Order!

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: On my left! Minister, you have the call.

Senator FIFIELD: This may come as a surprise to some people, but you cannot necessarily take the construction that The Sydney Morning Herald or The Age puts on something as necessarily accurate. But the good news is that the NBN rollout is going well. 1.8 million households have the opportunity to connect to the NBN. There are currently about 820,000 premises that have elected to do so. I can share with you that under the previous government only 51,000 premises activations had occurred. Fifty-one thousand under Labor and 820,000 under the coalition—

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock.

Senator McLucas: Mr President, I raise a point of order on relevance. I asked the simple question: was the minister informed that the NBN rollout was behind schedule before or after he made his statement? Can I you ask you to bring him back to the question.

The PRESIDENT: I will remind the minister of the question. Minister, you have 24 seconds in which to respond.

Senator FIFIELD: The point that I am making, which may have alluded Senator McLucas, is that I do not accept the premise of her question that the NBN is behind schedule. The NBN is on track to have 2.6 million premises available this financial year to connect to the NBN. (Time expired)









Senator McLUCAS (Queensland) (14:14): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer again to the nbn co documents, which reveal:

… all other significant milestones of FTTN—

fibre to the node—

continue to remain behind target.

Is this correct?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications and Minister for the Arts) (14:15): As I was saying, nbn co is on track to have 2.6 million premises able to connect to the NBN this financial year. It is on track to have one million activations in total this financial year in aggregate.

I should draw something to the attention of the chamber—that is, under the previous government only—

Senator Wong: Mr President, I rise on a point of order going to direct relevance. There was only one question. It was this: 'I refer again to nbn co documents which reveal that all other significant milestones of FTTN continue to remain behind target. Is this correct?' That is the question. Could the minister please address it?

The PRESIDENT: Order! Minister, I remind you of the question; you have 28 seconds.

Senator FIFIELD: I have already addressed that part of the question. Under this government, every milestone in the corporate plan has been met over the last six quarters. In contrast, only 15 per cent of the previous government's target—

Senator Conroy: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. The question is very simple, and the minister is deliberately flouting your ruling. He is deliberately quoting statistics that are not relevant to the actual question you have asked him to address. I ask you, Mr President, to draw him back to the question about the FTTN rollout. Mr Turnbull's rollout and his rollout, not other rollouts.

The PRESIDENT: I did hear the minister say in his answer, prior to you getting to your feet, that all milestones are currently ahead.

Senator Conroy: That is not an answer to the question he was asked!

The PRESIDENT: I cannot arbitrate on the details of the question. I can hear a question, and I can hear an answer. And in the latter part of his question I heard relevance. I will ask the minister to continue.

Senator FIFIELD: I have been talking about the past, the present and the future. I have covered all bases in that regard. But I do not accept the premise of Senator McLucas's question, so therefore it is impossible for me to satisfy it. (Time expired)










Senator McLUCAS (Queensland) (14:17): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Isn't it true that Mr Turnbull has nearly doubled the cost and more than doubled the time frame for getting his second-rate NBN to all Australians?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications and Minister for the Arts) (14:17): As a result of the approach that this government is taking, the multiple technology mix, which is being technology agnostic, nbn will adopt the technology that will see the NBN rolled out fastest and at lowest cost. We will see the NBN rolled out six to eight years sooner and at $30 billion less expense than would be the case with a full fibre rollout.

Those opposite seem to have forgotten that they spent in excess of $6 billion to have just two per cent of premises available for the NBN—just two per cent of premises. Those opposite seem to have forgotten that they only achieved 15 per cent of their rollout objectives—only 15 per cent—so this idea that the NBN was somehow the national nirvana network under the other side is completely wrong. It was off track, it was over budget and it was behind. We have got it back on track.