Senate debates

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


National Broadband Network Select Committee; Report

5:42 pm

Photo of Stephen ConroyStephen Conroy (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

Sorry—Mr Turnbull. My apologies. Mr Turnbull's mess, the multi-technology mix. The committee's interim report has identified seven major financial fiddles that the strategic review makes. The first point: it assumes a delay in the revised deployment schedule for a fibre build that is at odds with NBN Co's current run rate but is used to strip $11.6 billion out of NBN Co's revenues on their forecasts. It is used to strip out the revenues of $11 billion but it also, because of this effect, causes a $13 billion increase in peak funding. So we have the first significant dodgy decision. Let's just say it is going to take so long to roll out that it loses $11 billion. Oh! It loses $11 billion, therefore it is going to cost $13 billion extra to finance that. Wow. What geniuses we have. What genius we have in Mr Turnbull's mate—with whom he owns a boat and has for 15 years. He gets him in, he's been given the flick from Telstra, demoted three times, and he is brought in to do the financial fixing for Mr Turnbull to justify Mr Turnbull's position.

The second point: The review excludes approximately $4 billion in business-as-usual architecture savings, described by the chief technology officer as 'incremental changes' from the fibre build. But they were signed off by the previous NBN Co management. NBN Co management say, 'We recommend these changes, $4 billion worth of savings to NBN Co', and what does Mr Turnbull's mate say? 'No, we're not having them. Can't have them.'

The third point: The review assumes higher unit costs for the fibre build that add $14.4 billion in capital expenditure but are at odds with evidence from the NBN Co's chief financial officer—who was excluded from being part of the strategic review, was not allowed to participate, not part of the team, just putting together the strategic review—and the Department of Finance. Then, in a staggering admission, when asked, 'Did NBN Co, when you forecast into the future, Mr Rousselot, forecast into the future because you might learn something and make some efficiency savings?' The answer: virtually none. This has got to be the dumbest management in the country, on the planet, at the moment. It is going to enter an alleged 10-year build and it is barely going to make a single efficiency saving over the 10 years. That has got to be the dumbest bunch of managers I have ever encountered in my life.

The fourth point: Just because even all of those fiddles were not enough to be able to give a misleading report to the board and to the minister, it presumes overly pessimistic revenue assumptions for a fibre build. It does not reflect the existing strong demand for NBN services or the high data usage patterns of Australians using the NBN. There is a 50 per cent increase in data usage, just by being on the NBN. I know, Mr Acting Deputy President Bernardi, if you got hold of the real NBN you would have more than a 50 per cent increase in your usage. I have no doubt—for entirely appropriate reasons, can I say, Senator Bernardi. There is no suggestion there whatsoever. And it ignores demand for important elements of broadband quality, particularly reliability and upload speeds. Even those in this chamber—and you would be one of them, Senator Bernardi—would understand that you like uploading things. People might have thought I was suggesting you were downloading things before, but no. I know you like uploading things, and you have got so many websites that you would like to upload that would be of such benefit for the political discourse in this country that it would be staggering. But Mr Switkowski knows best. He sat in front of the committee the other day and he said, 'No Australians want 100 megabit per second speeds.' Twenty per cent of his existing customer base have taken 100 megabit per second speeds! And another five per cent have taken 50 megabit per second speeds. Twenty-five per cent of users of NBN want speeds faster than Ziggy Switkowski, Mr Turnbull or Mr Abbott have said. I will take a bet: If Senator Bernardi got a chance to sign up he'd be on the top package too. He'd want the fastest speeds and the biggest data caps. He would absolutely want it.

The fifth point: It adds a third satellite to Labor's NBN, without direct explanation. It just lumps it in—'We're going to buy a new satellite'. Here is the fiddle for this: We'll pay for it and have it launched in 2021, which means we count the cost of the satellite in NBN's cost base but the 100,000 customers that are projected to use the new satellite all happen after 2021—so we cannot include the revenues from the NBN's new satellite in the business plan. So you put a satellite cost in, charge it to the NBN for the whole future cost basis of this rort, but you are not allowed to include the revenue from the customers. Pathetic really, isn't it? Yes.

The sixth point: In scenario comparisons the strategic review includes costs and revenues for the multi-technology mix bill at assumed completion—but excludes the revenues, worth $50 billion, from the fibre build. That's right! They package it up to 2021 and then say, 'Because we have extended the deadline for the completion, we're going to rule out $15 billion worth of revenue that should be included, because we're just saying, no, you can't count it after 2021. We've got to compare the revenues at 2021 against our dodgy model at 2021.' (Time expired)


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