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Thursday, 15 October 2015
Page: 7810

National Broadband Network


Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (14:55): My question is to the Minister for Communications, Senator Fifield. Will the minister inform the Senate of the progress on the rollout of the National Broadband Network?


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) (14:56): The coalition, as you well know, Mr President, is committed to delivering fast broadband to all Australians sooner and at less cost to taxpayers. At the last election there were only 260,000 premises in fixed-line areas passed by the NBN. Today the figure is more than one million. A measly 51,000 users were on the network two years ago under Labor. Today there are more than 570,000 subscribers. The NBN corporate plan shows that by the end of June 2016 around one in four premises will have access to the NBN while at the end of June 2018 around three-quarters of homes and businesses will have access.

Under the coalition the NBN is moving its financial and deployment target, which is very different to Labor when it met only 17 per cent of its deployment forecasts. Labor's announcement yesterday that it would be reverting to its fibre-only policy, was quoted in The Australian Financial Review editorial today is 'an expensive joke'. The published NBN 2016 corporate plan forecasts that an all-fibre fixed-line build would require peak funding of between $74 billion and $84 billion, and the extra civil works required for fibre into the home not only cost tens of billions of dollars more but takes vastly more time to finish. Some Australians would have to wait until 2026 to get a connection. Mr Clare only has to answer three simple questions. They are: when is he going to do it; how is he going to do it; and how is he going to fund it? Other than those three questions, it is entirely clear that the AFR is right, Labor's plan is a joke.


Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (14:58): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, why is a multitechnology mix the most practical way of delivering superfast broadband to Australians more quickly and at a cheaper cost to taxpayers?


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) (14:58): Unlike Labor's unfunded and unrealistic option, the coalition is embracing a multitechnology mix. The NBN is one of many companies in the world rolling out the multitechnology mix. In Germany, Deutsche Telekom has recently announced an expansion of its fibre-to-the-node network to cover 80 per cent of its fixed-line footprint by 2018. There have also been mass deployments by BT Openreach in the UK, AT&T in the US and many others covering millions of homes.

Because the NBN is now technology-agnostic it means that under the coalition the NBN will be completed in five years time by finding the most practical technology to connect the NBN with Australians sooner and at less cost. We cannot afford to leave large numbers of Australians behind as we seek to accelerate the nation's productivity and global competitiveness in an age of digital disruption.


Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (14:59): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Will the minister advise the Senate on any threats to delivering fast affordable broadband to all Australians?

Senator Cameron: The copper network, you dope.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Cameron, you should withdraw that remark.

Senator Cameron: I withdraw.





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) (14:59): Threats? Senator Conroy, Mr Clare and the collective of the Australian Labor Party are the threats. We know Labor's track record is appalling. We as a nation can not risk allowing this vital infrastructure project to go back into the hands of those opposite. The Australian Financial Review again today in its editorial says:

Here we go again. Labor's announcement it will reinvigorate the National Broadband fibre-optic-cable-to-every-home Network, but not share any details, or even admit that it will cost a lot more money than the current mix of technologies, should come as no surprise.

To quote the AFR again:

Labor has no credibility in this area.

All Mr Clare has to do is say when he is going to do it, how he is going to do it and how he is going to fund it, and we eagerly await that news.