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Tuesday, 26 June 2018
Page: 3926

Broadband


Senator DEAN SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:57): My question is to the Minister for Communications, Minister Fifield. Can the minister update the Senate on the range of measures the Turnbull government and regulators have introduced to boost consumer protections during the transition to the National Broadband Network?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaMinister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:57): Thank you, Senator Smith. Why, yes, I can! Over the past year the government and regulators have put a comprehensive set of measures in place to support the customer experience on the NBN. Under the direction of the government, the Australian Communications and Media Authority is introducing enforceable standards, backed by penalties, to address hurdles experienced by some consumers and business when migrating to the NBN. In April this year the government released the terms of reference for a far-reaching telecommunications safeguards review. Mr President, you may be aware that the Labor Party announced last Sunday what they put forward as measures, and it would be fair to describe the announcement of those opposite as playing catch-up. It approximated a thought bubble on behalf of Ms Rowland. It did not constitute a developed policy.

Senator O'Neill interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator O'Neill.

Senator FIFIELD: And there's just one little point that those opposite failed to appreciate.

Senator O'Neill interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator O'Neill!

Senator FIFIELD: When those opposite said the ACCC should have a look at wholesale service standards, there's just one little point those opposite failed to appreciate, and that is that the ACCC is already undertaking an inquiry into wholesale service standards. This work is on top of those existing penalties and rebates that exist between the NBN and retailers. When you couple these with the measures that the ACCC have already put in place, it really does put paid to the persistent refrain from those opposite that NBN speeds are not what they should be.

Senator O'Neill interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator O'Neill, I've called you to order numerous times during one answer. Senator Smith.







Senator DEAN SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:59): I have a supplementary question, Mr President. Can the minister explain how these practical and effective measures compare with alternative policy proposals?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaMinister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:59): Yes. At the weekend, the member for Greenway, with great fanfare and a lovely three-minute video blog, presented the opposition's consumer regime.

Senator O'Neill interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator O'Neill!

Senator FIFIELD: Now, those opposite talked about an NBN guarantee but I can advise colleagues that Labor's proposition guaranteed precisely nothing. I looked, in Labor's announcement, for the time frames that they were proposing to repair end-user faults. Was there a time frame proposed by those opposite to repair end-user faults? There wasn't. Was there a time frame for the number of business days to connect a service after an order was placed? There wasn't. Labor's NBN guarantee guarantees precisely nothing.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! We have one question left.

Senator Wong interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong! Senator Smith, a final supplementary question.






Senator DEAN SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (15:00): Can the minister advise how the progress of the National Broadband Network rollout under this government compares to that of the previous government?

Senator O'Neill: You gave them copper!

The PRESIDENT: Senator O'Neill!




Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaMinister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (15:00): Under those opposite, the only guarantee was that consumers would wait longer and would pay more for their NBN connections. By the time the Labor Party left office, the National Broadband Network rollout was one million premises behind schedule. There were just 51,000 premises that were connected to the NBN under Labor. I'm not surprised that, when those opposite were in office, they had no interest in issues of guarantees or service standards, because they missed their targets by a million premises. Today, the NBN are connecting 50,000 premises every 10 working days, and the next milestone, of four million connections, is just around the corner. Under this government, Australians are getting the NBN and the consumer experience is improving. (Time expired)

Senator Cormann: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.