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Thursday, 12 November 2015
Page: 8461

Broadband


Senator McALLISTER (New South Wales) (14:09): My question is to the Minister for Communications, Senator Fifield. In April 2013, the now Prime Minister promised his second-rate NBN would cost $29.5 billion and said his plan was 'very conservative'. In December 2013, the now Prime Minister said his second-rate NBN would cost $41 billion and the assumptions were 'conservative and achievable'. In August this year, the now Prime Minister admitted his second-rate NBN would cost up to $56 million and said:

… all of us can have real confidence in the numbers …

Minister, how can anyone have any confidence in this government's numbers when the Prime Minister has gotten every single one of his NBN costs so hopelessly wrong?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government) (14:10): I thank Senator McAllister for her question. Senator McAllister is quite right that the 2016 corporate plan presents a peak funding range of between $46 billion and $56 billion, with a base case of $49 billion, and she is right that the strategic review estimated peak funding of $41 billion. The NBN, as it is rolling out, is learning from experience, as it has also learnt from the many reviews that it has commissioned and it is getting a much better and much more precise fix on the cost of the NBN. That is an important point, because our predecessors had no fix, they had no handle, on the costs of the scheme. This government has had to put in train with the board and management of nbn co processes to determine, to get a realistic handle on, what the true expenses of the NBN are because the NBN was left in such bad order by those opposite. As I have indicated before, in stark contrast to the work and the preparation done for the NDIS, where we had things such as a 2,000-page Productivity Commission report, we had a preparation sum total from Senator Conroy of a coaster with some of his hieroglyphics. I return to something that I posed the other day to this chamber: in what plan would you have more confidence? Would it be one developed by Senator Conroy or one developed by Mr Turnbull?


Senator McALLISTER (New South Wales) (14:12): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In October, this minister said the government's three-year construction plan was ambitious, and nbn co chairman, Dr Switkowski, said the NBN's rollout plan to 2020 was 'heroic'. Will the minister guarantee that this rollout plan will be achieved? Or is it as 'conservative and achievable' as every other forecast released by this government on the NBN?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government) (14:13): I thank Senator McAllister. When Dr Switkowski, the chair of nbn co, was referring to 'heroic', I think he was referring to the incredible efforts of the staff of nbn co, who are giving their all to this project.

Senator Conroy: No! No! No! No! That's not right.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Conroy, you were not asked the question.

Senator FIFIELD: But I do not deny for a second that this is not an ambitious project. It is a very ambitious project with a very good board and very good management who have oversight. It is an ambitious project but it is a realistic project. What we know for sure is that the multi-technology mix approach being pursued by nbn co will see the NBN rolled out much faster than it would have been by those opposite and at much lower cost to taxpayers, and I think that is great news.





Senator McALLISTER (New South Wales) (14:14): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Does the minister agree with Andrew Bolt that the Prime Minister is:

… promising competent economic management, but after the hash he's made of the National Broadband Network—now even more expensive and more delayed—I need more than a wink and nod.

Don't the Australian public deserve more than a wink and a nod before they believe this government's heroic rollout plan?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government) (14:14): No-one denies that this is—

Senator Conroy interjecting

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Conroy and Senator Carr!

Senator FIFIELD: I have learned something today: those opposite are close followers of, readers of and fans of Andrew Bolt! It is a discovery.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator FIFIELD: So say us! The 2016 corporate plan represents the most robust corporate plan developed by nbn, and it provides an accurate reflection of the business. We are confident that the network can be completed by 2020. In fact, for the past two years, the company has successfully met its rollout targets. That is the first time that has happened. We have confidence in the board of nbn. We have confidence in the management of the nbn. We want to see them get on with the job of delivering fast broadband sooner and at less cost.