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Thursday, 15 October 2015
Page: 7819


Senator KETTER (Queensland) (15:30): The evidence is now in that Mr Turnbull was a failure as a communications minister. What is more, it is clear that he is aware of the fact that he was a failure as a communications minister and that his tenure in that role has been a disaster for our country. We know that Mr Turnbull promised that his second-rate NBN would be built for $29.5 billion. That cost has doubled. It has gone up to $56 billion. Why else would Mr Turnbull seek to get information about costing on the fibre-to-the-premises model from nbn co?

We know that Mr Turnbull previously ruled out fibre to the premises as an option. In fact, in August 2013, Mr Turnbull went so far—and it was seen as quite controversial at the time—as to say that fibre to the premises was 'largely superseded' by the coalition's preferred model. Why would the communications minister and the finance minister write to nbn co to ask them to spend precious taxpayer resources on examining a technology which Mr Turnbull previously said has been largely superseded? We know that his second-rate version of the NBN is rolling out slower than what was promised. As I indicated, it will cost up to a whopping $26.5 billion more than what was promised.

I am interested in a recent article published by the Business Insider on 9 September 2015 which talks about the fact that:

… with the release in August of the 2016 NBN corporate plan and in the light of overseas developments, it is clear that the Coalition’s broadband network will not provide adequate bandwidth, will be no more affordable than Labor’s FTTP network and will take almost as long to roll out.

This is quite a damning assessment. This is not a Labor Party assessment of the government's approach to the NBN. This is from the Business Insider website. The Business Insider looked at affordability and identified that Labor's funding estimates ended up being about $44.9 billion. The article went on to say:

By comparison, the Coalition’s funding estimates … have fluctuated wildly.

Before the 2013 election, the coalition claimed that its technology mix network would cost less than one-third, or 30 per cent, of Labor's FTTP based NBN. It is quite clear that they have not taken into account the cost of repairing and maintaining Telstra's ageing copper network. This was underestimated, as was the cost of retraining and maintaining a workforce with the wider range of skills needed to install and maintain the so-called multitechnology mix network. These costs are unique to the MTN. In the space of two years, the lower-cost deal the coalition spruiked to Australian voters has turned out to be not so affordable after all.

The financial return to taxpayers from the coalition's second-rate NBN has also crashed. We were assured that it would be up to 5.3 per cent; now, it will be 3.5 per cent at best. Mr Turnbull's mismanagement of the NBN is not just limited to the multibillion dollar tax blow-outs. As I said, he is so determined to distract from his mismanagement of the NBN that in April he asked the nbn co to cook up a fictitious cost for Labor's NBN to give them something to hide behind. This is not just cowardly; it is appalling governance, completely at odds with the governance and oversight guidelines for Commonwealth companies.

Malcolm Turnbull promised that his so-called multitechnology mix version of the NBN would be rolled out faster and cheaper. Mr Turnbull has no-one to blame for this failure but himself. Obsessed with connecting Australians to the NBN using 20th century copper, he went ahead with a second-rate NBN on the basis of a dodgy policy and some very bad advice.

Question agreed to.