House debates

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Questions without Notice


2:56 pm

Photo of Andrew BroadAndrew Broad (Mallee, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Communications. Will the minister update the House on the steps the government is taking to ensure the NBN can deliver faster broadband to all households and businesses sooner, more cheaply for the consumer and more affordably for the taxpayer?

2:57 pm

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Minister for Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the honourable member for his question and recognise the very keen interest his constituents have in ensuring that the NBN is actually delivered as opposed to being the subject of one misleading press release after another, as it was under the previous government.

On Tuesday the former chief executive of the NBN Co., Michael Quigley, was asked whether he thought, on reflection, that he should have set targets that were somewhat more conservative, because all of the targets the NBN Co. set were missed. Indeed, by 30 June next year, the NBN Co. will pass with fibre something in the order of 20 per cent of what the previous government had said in its first corporate plan in 2010 would be achieved by that day. So it has been a colossal shortfall. Mr Quigley said: 'You do think, should I have been more conservative? But the timescales are already set for you, the time frames are already put out for you, so there is not much you can do.'

The previous government forced the NBN to tell the government what it wanted to hear, and there is no worse investment than paying people to tell you what you want to hear. They set unrealistic targets, the company was afraid of telling the truth, and again and again they missed those targets. To the Labor Party, the only thing that mattered was the announcement, the media opportunity, the press release. So again they misled the Australian people. Never forget that, at the time Senator Conroy was telling Australians this was a great investment and mums and dads would line up to invest, they had in their cabinet room a report from Lazard that said the value of the project was a negative $31 billion. It would destroy $31 billion of value.

We are being thoroughly transparent. Next week we will release the strategic review. We are publishing every week the actual rollout statistics. Instead of fudging and hiding and dissembling, they are being published every single week.

I have a challenge for the Leader of the Opposition. He says that their government had good reason to embark on the NBN and that it was just a bit of a mishap that things did not go quite as they might have done. There is an opportunity for the transparency from us to be matched by Labor. The Leader of the Opposition can agree to the cabinet papers relating to the formation of the NBN being released. What does the opposition leader have to hide on the NBN? Plenty, I fear.