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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 9846

Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaAssistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (15:21): It was really quite interesting to stand here and listen to Senator Collins's contribution.

Senator Bernardi interjecting

Senator RUSTON: I have just been accused by my colleague of misleading the Senate by saying it was quite interesting. The comment that we heard from Senator Collins about question time deteriorating because of actions on this side of the place is really quite extraordinary. I am sure everybody who was in this place today saw that the majority of the deterioration that occurred in question time certainly did not originate from this side of the chamber.

One of the things I must say are quite extraordinary is the absolutely incredible obsession by those opposite with issues such as the one Senator Collins has just been speaking about. If only we had the same level of obsession about the prosperity of this country from those opposite, maybe we would be a little further down the track than where we are currently, instead of wasting the time of those in this chamber and those who were unfortunate enough to have had to listen to the goings-on today.

The most important thing we could be discussing today is the prosperity of Australia. We should be talking about jobs, we should be talking about the economy and we should be talking about the government's agenda. To be prosecuting aspects of the broader government agenda in question time I would have thought was the purpose of question time. We should be prosecuting the issues of innovation, we should be prosecuting the issues of government agility and Australia's agility to be able to deliver for the future. Which made me all the more surprised when a senator opposite got up and asked a question about the NBN. I would have thought they would have learnt their lesson by now and realised that trying to defend the indefensible, which was the NBN under their watch, instead of working towards looking at the positive aspects that are happening with the NBN under our watch, is quite extraordinary.

How many times have those opposite talked about the NBN and about an article that had been leaked to The Australian? There is absolutely no doubt that Senator Conroy has a couple of friends in the media because of the number of times we have seen leaked documents coming out on the NBN which are then refuted by nbn co. They have not been peer-group analysed and they get put into this place as though they are fact. It is quite extraordinary.

I concede that the NBN is a nation-building transformative piece of infrastructure. I congratulate those opposite because there is no doubt that that is the case. However, the way it was being delivered under those opposite and the previous government was nothing short of absolutely farcical. But there is some good news around the NBN. So I thought I would take a quick opportunity today to tell you a few good things about the NBN, so people are not misled by the rubbish they read in the paper sometimes.

The NBN is powering ahead. There is a plan that 3.9 million premises will be passed over the next three years and using existing copper technology, in conjunction with the HFC infrastructure, which already exists, not only can the NBN be completed with much less cost but it can also be completed much quicker and will be more affordable to the taxpayer.

To be standing here and trying to continually prosecute something which occurred in the past, instead of looking forward, seems to me to be another political waste of time—as we see so often from those opposite. If we really want to talk about some negative things about the NBN, we only have to look at the extraordinary mismanagement of the project under those opposite. It was the most poorly managed project that I can remember since coming here.

When Labor embarked on this mammoth venture they were absolutely clueless. They deliberately avoided a cost-benefit analysis. They abandoned a normal cabinet process and just went for a rubber stamp policy. They then ignored advice from the Public Service about what was going on, instead favouring some advice that they got from agencies that suited their ultimate outcome. Then Senator Conroy even had the audacity to appoint nobody to the board who had any telecommunications experience. So I find it extraordinary that we should be standing here today prosecuting these silly things when there are so many more important things to be done for the country. (Time expired)