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Thursday, 15 October 2015
Page: 7814


Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (15:10): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by ministers to questions without notice asked by Opposition senators today.

What a complete disaster the mismanagement of the nbn by this government has been. It is not just limited to the multibillion dollar cost blow-out. So desperate has Mr Turnbull's position been to distract from his mismanagement of nbn that in April this year he asked nbn co to cook up this fictitious cost for Labor's nbn, to give him something else to hide behind. This is not just cowardly; this is incredibly appalling governance and completely at odds with the government's oversight guidelines for Commonwealth companies. That is exactly what I asked Senator Cormann to address—the fact that the Commonwealth Government Business Enterprise Governance and Oversight Guidelines requires GBEs to avoid activities that could give rise to questions about their political impartiality.

Clearly, the minister did not answer this question and, clearly, Mr Turnbull's promise that his so-called 'multitechnology mix' version of the nbn would be rolled out faster and cheaper has not happened. In fact, what we have had is an incredible doubling of the cost, an incredible blow-out from some $29.5 billion to the cost now of some $56 billion.

What I am particularly concerned about are the good governance issues surrounding this. Those are particularly what I asked about. Particularly what I am concerned about is how the Senate requested today that the government come clean about whether the inclusion of a political counterfactual, which ministers knew would not replicate the rigour of nbn co's business plan, is consistent with section 1.7 of the Commonwealth GBE guidelines. The guidelines do require GBEs to maintain the highest standards of integrity, accountability and responsibility.

I cannot see how they have done that. In fact, I think they have done the opposite of that, wherein lie the credibility of this government, the integrity of this government and the good governance arrangements of this government and of this Prime Minister. It was under this Prime Minister's watch as Minister for Communications—as he was in April—that this has occurred. After two years as Minister for Communications all that Mr Turnbull has left behind is a version of the nbn best described as 'Malcolm Turnbull's mess'. He has no-one else to blame for this failure but himself.

Of course, he has been obsessed with connecting Australians to the nbn by using 20th century copper. Then he went ahead with his second-rate nbn on the basis of a dodgy policy and some very bad advice. The financial return to taxpayers from the coalition's second-rate nbn has completely crashed. In December 2013 we were assured that the rate of return would be up to 5.3 per cent. Now, it will be 3.5 per cent at best. This has been a complete shemozzle and a complete embarrassment for this Prime Minister, who was the Minister the Communications. It has been a complete mismanagement of nbn and, as I said, not just limited to the multibillion dollar cost blow-out that we have seen and listened to today through Minister Cormann's answer.

Distracting people from that mismanagement has been the key for this government. 'Let's distract them from the mismanagement by cooking up a fictitious cost for Labor's nbn.' This was to give them something to hide behind. That really is what has happened here, and it beggars belief how they would cook the books to cover up their own incompetence instead of actually addressing the multibillion dollar nbn blow-out that they have now put forward.

The irony with all of this is that it is not just a multibillion-dollar blow-out so that we have a better NBN—we still end up with the same second-rate NBN, the same second-rate version, rolling out slower than he promised and costing up to a whopping $26.5 billion more than he promised. That is Mr Turnbull's legacy as Minister for Communications. It has been an absolute disaster and I do not see it getting better under his Prime Ministership. (Time expired)