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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 1303


Senator BILYK (TasmaniaDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (15:25): I too rise to take note of an answer from the Minister for Communications to a question from Senator McLucas in regard to the National Broadband Network. The minister's answers today were thoroughly disappointing as is the government's record so far on this whole sorry saga.

Senator Bushby: They were pretty good.

Senator BILYK: Senator Bushby, I will get to you and your interest in NBN and how much you hope to pay for it in a minute. Ever since the government adopted its farcical multitechnology-mix policy, it has become clearer each day that the abbreviation MTM more appropriately stands for Malcolm Turnbull's mess, and we have heard it a number of times. The phrase 'fast, affordable, sooner' that underpinned his government's pre-election promise on the NBN, has to be one of the greatest frauds visited on the Australian people. It is an absolute joke. After 2½ years in government with the promise to deliver the NBN to every home and business, and all they have to show for it is a measly 29,000 fibre-to-the-node connections and not one HFC connection. That is absolutely incredible. And every time we think that Malcolm Turnbull's mess cannot possibly get worse, the problem deepens.

The latest results are detailed in a report leaked to Fairfax Media. I note that the minister did not deny that the report existed or that the figures were inaccurate. It was pretty interesting to watch what he did not actually say, as opposed to the rather disappointing answers that he gave. But we see this whole disaster about NBN deepening right before our very eyes. It is no wonder that the government has done everything it can to hide their mess, because it wants to cover up their bungles and cost blow-outs. Despite this government's promise for greater scrutiny and transparency, it has shrouded the NBN in a veil of secrecy that would make Kim Jong-un blush.

This leaked report that we have been talking about shows that nbn co has only reached one-third of its target for construction completions. While 1.4 million premises should have been approved at the date of the 19 February report, only 660,000 premises, or less than half of the target, were approved. And there is a 23 per cent increase in the cost of construction per premise, up from $1,114 to $1,366. This is on top of the disaster that we already knew about. We already knew the cost to Mr Turnbull's second-rate NBN was supposed to be $29.5 billion. It has almost doubled under the current government to $56 billion. Mr Turnbull promised to complete the entire rollout by the end of this year, but it is now projected to be completed by the end of 2020. Only 14 per cent of Australian premises will have the NBN by the government's self-imposed deadline. The cost of fixing the old copper network—this is a doozy—has blown out by 1,000 per cent, with the government having to purchase 8.5 million metres of new copper.

I have spoken before on quite a few occasions in fact in this place on the local consequences of Malcolm Turnbull's mess. in response to a question I asked in Senate estimates, nbn co revealed that they had reached only eight per cent of under-served premises by the end of last financial year ,despite Mr Turnbull's promise to prioritise the rollout to the worst served areas. One of those areas—Senator Bushby, you might be interested in this—is the suburb of Howden. I know you know where Howden is. It is a suburb just south of Hobart, quite near my electorate office in Kingston. It is category E for broadband availability, and they are still waiting for NBN. So they are in the worst of the five categories for broadband availability and they are still waiting for NBN.

It was pretty disappointing to see them left off the list of the nbn co's latest rollout plan, the second time it has happened. We spoke to nbn co about Howden being left off the list previously and they made the same mistake again—they left them off again. This was not only after we had spoken to them but after nbn co had come to public meetings, where the 600 residents of Howden were so concerned they had a petition that I tabled in this place not that long a go in regards to the way they have been treated and the whole issue around lack of availability in Howden. As I said, Howden is not some far flung out reach of Australia— (Time expired)

Question agreed to.