House debates

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Matters of Public Importance

Turnbull Government

3:57 pm

Photo of Michelle RowlandMichelle Rowland (Greenway, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications) Share this | Hansard source

When it comes to the failures of this government to respect proper standards and accountability, the Prime Minister's track record on the NBN is an absolute pearler. In 2013, this Prime Minister stood up with the then Prime Minister, looked the Australian people in the eye and said that they would deliver a National Broadband Network for $29 billion and have it finished by 2016. He declared that it would be open and it would be transparent. But then the first test came: the December 2013 strategic review. In this report it was revealed that the Prime Minister's multitechnology mix for the NBN had blown out from $29 billion to $41 billion. Did he offer any explanation as to how the high cost of the NBN had become even $12 billion more expensive overnight, or any explanation as to why it would now not be delivered until 2020? He offered no explanation whatsoever. Worse still, if you want to talk about proper standards and accountability, every key assumption in the 2013 strategic review remains redacted and blacked out. So much for the transparency promised by this Prime Minister. Even to this day, this government refuses to release that information.

Then we saw information emerge about further cost blowouts and delays and failures in the rollout with this Prime Minister's multitechnology mix—the rollout that was supposed to be 'faster, sooner and more affordable'. Here are some of the things that we learned. We started to learn about secret trials where the NBN had reduced the cost and time to deploy fibre. We began to hear about the cost of fibre to the node—about how this Prime Minister's copper NBN's cost was blowing out even further. We heard about how the cost of copper remediation had blown out by more than 1,000 per cent. We learned that the HFC network, which the Prime Minister touted as a game-changer, was actually not fit for purpose.

Did we see any transparency and accountability as a result of that? No. I'll tell you what we saw, Mr Deputy Speaker. We saw a raid. We saw an unprecedented AFP raid in the middle of an election campaign in Australia in 2016. We had the NBN chairman then publish a most politically charged opinion piece about that raid, defending the NBN's actions. Bear in mind that this is the hand-picked chairman of the NBN, hand-picked by this Prime Minister. This was despite advice from the nation's top public servant saying that doing so would breach caretaker conventions. Just to quote from an article at the time:

NBN chairman Ziggy Switkowski wilfully breached caretaker conventions during an election campaign and did so against the express advice of the nation's top public servant.

We see the full extent of these failures again revealed in the August 2015 corporate plan, where the NBN again blew out in costs from $41 billion to up to $56 billion. But did we get more transparency? We had scrapped external oversight of the NBN corporate plan.

So we have a project personally undertaken by this Prime Minister, who is so invested in it—the one in which he declared we would have full transparency and openness. We have seen nothing of that. This born-to-rule Prime Minister, who fancies himself as a genius, has been exposed on every front when it comes to the NBN. He has lurched from failure to failure. He was a failure as communications minister. He is a failure as Prime Minister. He stuffed up the National Broadband Network. Just look at the evidence. We dropped from 30th in the world for internet speeds to 50th. There has been a 160 per cent increase in complaints about the NBN from consumers. We are now placed last out of 28 countries in the world for broadband satisfaction. Last! Last in the world. This great Liberal hope, this champion of copper—he coveted the prime ministership his entire life—exposed as nothing more than shallow and glass jawed. In the immortal words of Paul Keating: you light him up, there's a bit of fizz, but then nothing. Nothing. (Time expired)


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