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Monday, 21 June 2010
Page: 3764

Senator JOYCE (Leader of the Nationals in the Senate) (3:04 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (Senator Conroy) and the Assistant Treasurer (Senator Sherry) to questions without notice asked by Senators Cormann and Joyce today relating to the National Broadband Network.

It is interesting that we found today that the government’s depth of understanding of their own deal does not even go to the person representing the Treasurer here. Their understanding of the financial implications of what they have been lauding is completely without any sort of diligence whatsoever. A person sitting merely feet away from the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has no idea of what the implications of a lease are, as opposed to what ownership of an asset is.

Senator Marshall —You couldn’t even ask the right minister!

Senator JOYCE —This is the same sort of diligence we got when the Labor Party went forward with its plan without doing a cost-benefit analysis. No wonder Telstra is happy. Telstra should be doing cartwheels.

Senator Marshall —That’s no wonder—you didn’t even ask the right minister!

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Marshall!

Senator JOYCE —Grumpy Gavin. Telstra should be doing cartwheels about this deal because they retain ownership. What we are doing is just handing money to Telstra. They get $5 billion rent on their ducts. We do not own them. NBN does not own them. Telstra remains with ownership of them. It is a brilliant deal for Telstra—and they get to lose the USO, the universal service obligation. They can flick that one out the door. They can flick the protections that we put in place out the door. The protection is gone, money is in and debt has gone up—it is a typical Labor deal. This is a perfect Labor deal. They will just wander overseas and borrow a bit more money from China, a bit more money from Japan and a bit more money from the Middle East to cover up their black hole in funding. But they do not care about this. There is no acumen to this. It is terrifying to see that the person representing the Treasurer, sitting merely feet away from the minister, has no idea about the fundamental financial aspects of this deal. That is something the Australian people should understand about the acumen that sits behind this.

Senator Marshall interjecting—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Marshall, I have asked you continually not to interject. You will have a chance to respond directly if you want to take note.

Senator JOYCE —We have signed ourselves up for an $11 billion gratuity to Telstra. We have ‘come in spinner’ to Telstra. The reason we have done that, the reason our nation is going to go further into hock beyond the $147 billion gross that we currently have outstanding, is that the Labor Party are desperately trying to find a raison d’etre. They are trying to find some semblance of an issue, a fig leaf, to go to the election on and so they are prepared to pay any price, and they paid any price when they paid this. This is the deal made in heaven for Telstra and it is the deal made in hell for the Australian taxpayer, who now has to kick the tin basically for picking up a lease. They have picked up a lease and we are going to pay for it. When they picked up the lease they lost their protection. When we drill down through ‘Universal Service Obligation Co.’ we can see that they have gone out and privatised the guarantee of this chamber to look after Australians. They know when to privatise something. They have privatised responsibility. That is what they privatised. They have privatised public responsibility.

What is the grand amount the government is putting towards this? We see it is $50 million in the forward estimates. What a wonderful day for Australia. We have just been held over a barrel and flogged. This is what has happened to us in this deal and Telstra are grinning all the way to the bank. This is not a purchase. We are not buying a new company here. The government is leasing a hole in the ground and the rent is going to cost it $5 billion. It is handing over the obligations whereby this party sought to protect customers in the universal service obligation. The government is doing that—and then giving what? Fifty million in 2012-13 and 2013-14.

What is in this for Australia? What is in this for Australia is a grinning Prime Minister who can go to the door and say, ‘Because you do not quite understand the complexities of this deal, you’re going to believe me that it’s a good deal,’ just like you believed him when he said that the ETS was the greatest moral challenge of our time, just like you believed him when he  said he was going to have a war on obesity, just like you believed him when he said he would keep the price of groceries down and just like when you believed him in so many of his other false statements.

Senator Wong interjecting—

Senator JOYCE —I am sure the ‘Minister with no responsibility whatsoever’, Senator Wong, will be able to tell us exactly when to believe the Prime Minister. I tell you what you can believe. You can believe those big, cheesy grins from Telstra, you can believe Telstra’s bank managers and you can believe that Telstra has done the deal of the lifetime with the worst Prime Minister in our nation’s history.