Senate debates

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010

In Committee

4:56 pm

Photo of Guy BarnettGuy Barnett (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Yes, 11 per cent. It is not a very good record. Under the business plan they are expecting a signup rate of 69 per cent. Of course that is different again to the KPMG McKinsey report, for which the government paid $25 million, which had an 80 per cent signup rate. These figures are vastly different, and in Tasmania we know that so far it has been mismanaged. The maladministration has been something shocking with respect to the rollout of the NBN in Tasmania. I want to put on the record my strong support for the involvement of the Auditor-General to investigate the rollout of the NBN in Tasmania to date.

This government has injected—and this has been put on the public record many months ago—$100 million into the rollout in Tasmania and yet they refuse to say exactly how much the rollout has cost to date. They refuse to say the cost of the total rollout—what it will cost the budget. They refuse to say how much the federal government is putting in and how much the state government is putting in. Yet we heard last week that the joint venture agreement between the Tasmanian government, the federal government and Aurora Energy—the energy retailer in Tasmania—has collapsed. The minister has admitted and conceded it has been abandoned. That agreement was started in August last year when there were meetings to say, ‘We’re going to have this joint venture.’ They had this fancy, publicity-driven announcement with much fanfare and much media, saying, ‘Yes, this is a goer; it’s fantastic,’ and they got themselves on the front page. It is a hoax that has been foisted on the Tasmanian people. We have been used as a guinea pig for this enormous white elephant. This investment has been plagued with problems day after day from the start, with cost blow-outs, connection problems and dismal sign-up rates. They are just some of the problems affecting the project in the state of Tasmania.

Earlier last week, as I indicated, we were advised that the joint venture had collapsed. You have only 11 per cent out of the 4,000 homes around those three stage 1 towns. Only seven per cent, by the way, are actually active and operating. That is a very poor record indeed. Today we heard about the first school that was connected—again, with much fanfare by this government. Senator Conroy and Premier David Bartlett stand responsible. Premier Bartlett is up there today in Circular Head touting the merits of the program. The first school connected in Tasmania—in Smithton at Circular Head, north-west Tasmania—is reportedly having problems with reliability and connection speeds. This is public today. It has been referred to in this place. I commend the ABC for their report earlier today noting the concerns that have been expressed.

It has been a joke. Those responsible should hang their heads in shame with respect to the rollout in Tasmania to date. We have had problems with the Tasmania NBN board. Three directors were appointed. How long did they last? How long were they there for? They lasted one year. They were either sacked, terminated or their term expired. Some of them I know well and I admire. The principal place of residence, the registered company, is actually based at the NBN Co. headquarters in Melbourne. It is simply not working as was planned. It proves that they were not acting on any business plan; it was based on simply a few words on the back of an envelope, saying, ‘Let’s do it this way.’

This is a shameful display. What we need in Tasmania is an Auditor-General’s inquiry. Malcolm Turnbull and Andrew Robb have written to the Auditor-General. That letter was sent to him yesterday. I am on the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, a very important committee. I hope that that letter is received positively and that that inquiry is undertaken as a matter of urgency. I do support these coalition amendments. I think they have great merit. I draw that to the attention of the Senate. I thank the Senate.


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