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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 1298

Senator CONROY (VictoriaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:04): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Communications (Senator Fifield) to a question without notice asked by Senator McLucas today relating to the National Broadband Network.

When Malcolm Turnbull released his strategic review in December 2013, he said it was 'the most thorough and objective analysis of the National Broadband Network ever provided to Australians'. He also said:

Importantly, all forecasts in the Strategic Review have been arrived at independently by NBN Co and, in the view of the company and its expert advisors, are both conservative and achievable.

This, as we have all come to understand, was simply empty waffle. Let us go through the highlights.

Mr Turnbull said his second-rate NBN would cost $29.5 billion. We know now that it will cost almost double that, up to $56 billion. He said he would get his second-rate NBN to all homes in Australia by this year, 2016. This time frame has now more than doubled, to 2020. And he said that his second-rate copper NBN would cost $600 per home. This cost has nearly tripled, to $1,600 a home. He said it would cost $55 million to patch up the old copper network. This cost has blown out by more than 1,000 per cent, to more than $640 million. He said that 2.61 million homes would be connected to the pay TV cables by 2016. nbn is now forecasting they will connect only 10,000 homes by June 2016. So they are only 2.6 million homes short of their target, but let's just ignore that! Mr Turnbull also said that his second-rate network would bring in $2.5 billion in revenue in 2016-17. This has crashed to only $1.1 billion. He has blown a $1.4 billion hole in nbn co's revenue forecasts. Just today, yet another leaked document from nbn co has revealed that Mr Turnbull's second-rate copper NBN is hopelessly delayed and over-budget. Internal documents reveal that nbn co has met less than a third of its internal rollout targets for Mr Turnbull's second-rate copper NBN. These delays are due mostly to problems with connecting mains power to Mr Turnbull's large street-side copper cabinets. These delays are entirely of Mr Turnbull's own making.

The great tragedy about this and the rest of the litany of failed targets which are revealed in this document is that every single one of them was forecast in the transition-to-government documents. It is not as though this has suddenly been discovered—all of these problems were identified clearly before Mr Turnbull undertook this path. But, no, he is magic: he is able to transform the real world into his own private moments of 'just believe everything I say and ignore everything I have said before'. What we see in this document is that Mr Turnbull's copper NBN is coming in over-budget, despite recent assurances from officials who sat at Senate estimates and told us all that it was on target.

It would be remiss not to mention directly Senator Fifield's answers to the questions, because Senator Fifield quite deliberately avoided answering any question that was asked of him today.(Time expired)