Senate debates

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Questions without Notice

Broadband

2:40 pm

Photo of Jan McLucasJan McLucas (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Mental Health) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Communications, Senator Fifield. I refer to Mr Turnbull's claim in August last year that the cost of an optic fibre NBN would be $3,700 a home and stay that high for more than a decade. Given leaked documents from nbn co show that nbn co has built fibre for significantly less than $3,700 a home, does the current minister stand by Mr Turnbull's claim?

2:41 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator McLucas for her question. I acknowledge that she, like members of the press gallery who are in receipt of allegedly leaked documents, hyperventilated and got sweaty palms when those documents were in prospect—

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

The point that Mr Turnbull was making in his previous incarnation was that fibre to the premises obviously is expensive.

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

Did he not tell you? You didn't know, did you?

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

The company published its audited half-year results earlier last month showing full fibre to the premises continuing to cost on average $4,419 per premise. In some cases the cost of connecting a premise actually runs into tens of thousands of dollars where there are lots of civil works to undertake. This is actually the model favoured by the Australian Labor Party, which is also known as 'fibre at any cost'.

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

Ho, ho, ho!

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, it is a statement of fact.

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

You will not be able to keep getting them to tell lies for you for much longer.

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I have got all day, Mr President. What is important to recognise is that the trial that was referred to in the paper today of nbn doing a variation of a fibre-to-the-node product is not new and is not a secret because the company announced that it was doing this in its half-year results last month. That is how much of a secret it is—that nbn announced in its half-year results that it was doing this. nbn has always had the approach under this government of doing that which is most cost-effective. (Time expired)

2:43 pm

Photo of Jan McLucasJan McLucas (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Mental Health) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister confirm that nbn co reports leaked this week show that fibre-to-the-premises NBN costs are coming down, contradicting the latest nbn corporate plan, which claims that the cost per premise will be $3,700 'over the full period of the bill'?

2:44 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

As I indicated earlier, the costs of fibre to the premises are very high. They are very high and, as I indicated earlier, the audited half-yearly results released last month show that full fibre to the premise is continuing to cost, on average, over $4,000 per premise.

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

They won't keep lying for you for much longer.

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Conroy! Minister, you have the call.

Senator Conroy interjecting

Order on my left! Minister, you have the call. Senator Conroy, stop interjecting.

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Thanks, Mr President. It is clear that fibre to the premise is expensive. It is over $4,000 per premise. Nbn have had a trial of a variation of fibre-to-the-node product. It is not fibre to the premise; it is a variation of a fibre-to-the-node product, which is no secret, because nbn announced that they were doing it—no stunning revelation. Nbn seeks to do that which is most cost effective.

2:45 pm

Photo of Jan McLucasJan McLucas (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Mental Health) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister confirm that, in areas where Mr Turnbull's NBN has been switched on, complaints continue to emerge that internet speeds are patchy and in some cases even worse than ADSL? Minister, isn't it true that only Labor's fibre-to-the-premises NBN will deliver faster, higher quality and more reliable broadband to Australians?

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

No.