Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Questions without Notice
National Broadband Network
I thank the member for both her question and her continuing, enthusiastic and knowledgeable contribution to our broadband policy. In December the strategic review told us the melancholy truth about the current state of the project we inherited from Labor and what our realistic options were to fix it. The rollout statistics since December are now accurate and meaningful, and published not when it suits the minister's convenience but every single week. Last Thursday, for the first time, the Department of Communications published a detailed analysis of broadband availability and quality across Australia. On Friday the NBN management held a results briefing on its last six months. The chairman, CFO and chief operating officer gave a detailed presentation and then took questions from the media and industry analysts, all streamed live over the web, and this will be repeated every three months.
I note that today in TheAustralian David Frith has said that since the election the project has come to a standstill. In fact, since the election active fibre premises have nearly doubled to 95,000, total fibre premises passed have increased by 120,000, and serviceable brownfield premises are up by 74,000. The truth is: the fibre build is proceeding faster than ever.
But probably the most extreme reaction to the NBN Co's new transparency and honesty—openness about both past mistakes and current operations, and realism about future plans—has come from Senator Conroy. His rage against the truth is now so intemperate that today the Senate estimates committee had to be temporarily adjourned by the chairman after his abuse of witnesses reached new lows as he waged his solitary war of denial, continuing to claim that the project was in perfect shape when he left office. This is all the more puzzling because Senator Conroy is the shadow defence minister. But there is a connection—tenuous, I grant you—between Senator Conroy's denialism and the military, because he has become the Lieutenant Onoda of the Australian parliament—the Japanese officer who, refusing to accept that the war had ended, fought on in the jungles of the Philippines for 28 years after the end of hostilities. When Lieutenant Onoda finally surrendered, he still had his sword, his rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition. Will it be 28 years before Senator Conroy too, clutching his dog-eared bundle of reckless forecasts, finally surrenders to the truth: that he presided over the most wasteful infrastructure debacle in our history?