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Tuesday, 24 October 2017
Page: 11768


Mr HOGAN (Page) (16:01): I'll get to the good work that we've been doing as a government with the NBN, but this whole story reminds me of an Irish joke I might share with you, Deputy Speaker. You may have already heard of it. There's this American tourist and he's driving around Ireland. He's in his convertible. He's got the roof down. He's enjoying the Irish countryside—the stone walls and the green fields—but after about an hour or so he feels as though he's lost. He feels, 'I think I've driven past this place before, or down this lane before.' After a while, he sees an Irish farmer putting some hay into a shed, and he walks over to the Irish farmer and says: 'Sir, I'm trying to get to Dublin. How do I get to Dublin from here?' The Irish farmer says, 'Oh, sir, if I were going to Dublin, I wouldn't start from here.'

I think that says it all about the NBN. We were left something which certainly isn't the place you would have started from. The minister spoke about—and it's been well documented—the complete public policy wreck that the NBN was as it was created by Minister Stephen Conroy. Some of his exploits were well documented, but the minister alluded to a few of them. In 11 weeks it was put together. There was no business case. There was no independent study. Let's look at this, because this was always a project of tens of billions of dollars, and there was no independent study ever done on it. There was no cost-benefit analysis. The board was put together and, as has been documented by independent people, there was no operational experience on the board. This was a thing that was hatched together by a minister who did no consultation and no independent study on it. So what were we left with? We were left with the debacle that it was.

Deputy Speaker Coulton, I share a thing with you. When I'm not in Canberra and I'm with industrious Australians who are out there having a go and starting small businesses, out and about doing it, it's easy to feel optimistic about Australia and everything that's going on. When I'm in Canberra, I feel less optimistic as the week goes on, having to listen to the ideology of those opposite and the diatribe that comes out of their mouths. They have no commercial experience. Most of them have never run a business or had management experience, and then, of course, you hear them say things like this.

If you were to run it as it was originally designed by the Labor Party, where they were going to do fibre to the premise everywhere, that was obviously going to mean a couple of indefutable things. It was always going to be more expensive to build. To build a fibre-to-the-premise model was always going to be more expensive than fibre to the node or fibre to the curbside. Besides being more expensive to build, it was always, obviously, going to be more expensive for the customer. To build a more expensive project meant that the expense to the customer was always going to be more and, obviously, the rollout was always going to be slower when doing a fibre-to-the-premises model.

What should've happened in the original, as happened in many countries, is that there should have been a mixture of technologies, and not necessarily done by government. This is the shock to them: this didn't have to be done by government! But that's something that they just can't get through their minds, because they have to control everything. Everything needs to be built by government. Many countries have done this in a good model; they have done it with a model with private companies doing it in the high traffic areas. They've done it with a model in capital cities, where people competed to build it, and, obviously, governments got involved where it may not have been commercially viable and they needed government involvement.

Obviously, that is too shocking for them; everything has to be done by government—governments are the only people who know how to do stuff. And, of course, what a great result! It will be a thing that goes down in history as the diabolical thing we were left with—much like the Irish farmer said: 'You wouldn't start from here.' It's where we were left when we took over.

But much good has been done. Firstly, the Prime Minister, who was the previous Minister for Communications, got in and put the management team and the governance system in place with NBN. This meant that the statistics and the rollout have been much better than they otherwise would have been. In my electorate of Page, we've had the rollout of the fixed broadband, which is now covering just about all of the electorate where the fixed broadband was going. We're going to have a mixture of fibre to the node and fibre to the curb. It's been redesigned in some of the CBDs where it floods, so there is good work happening.