Senate debates

Monday, 2 December 2019

Auditor-General's Reports

Report No. 15 of 2019-20; Consideration

6:01 pm

Photo of Anne UrquhartAnne Urquhart (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I rise to speak on the National broadband network fixed line migration—service continuity and complaints management report by the ANAO. We know the NBN migration for too many customers has been less than ideal. According to the audit, NBN Co has not been fixing faults on time, and it did not have adequate processes to find out the root cause of frequent complaints. The Auditor-General has recommended the company set up better monitoring processes and review its complaints process. The report said:

Entities should regularly monitor and analyse the complaints they receive in order to understand any trends or systemic issues that may be occurring …

However, the auditor said that NBN Co did not count delays when a user missed their appointment with a technician at home, which meant it could be taking even longer to solve complaints than NBN Co was actually claiming. The ANAO said complaints that took longer than NBN Co's time lines to resolve often dragged out.

We know in practice the NBN migration for HFC has been a complete debacle. We know, for starters, NBN Co was forced to abandon the Optus HFC network altogether, despite previously trying to deny it was not fit for purpose. Mike Quigley had concluded in two weeks this network could not be used, and it took the coalition three years. We then found out that the remainder of the HFC network was having reliability problems as well. You might recall in November 2017 NBN announced a sudden halt to the rollout of the HFC network. This panicked response came a week after the Senate committee began honing in on HFC issues. Apparently this HFC technology was going to be a game changer—so game changing that the HFC rollout had to be halted because the technology was unreliable and causing dropouts. The HFC delay cost Australian taxpayers $800 million, and the cost for the HFC rollout has blown out five years in a row. At the time, NBN Co declared there would be a six- to nine-month delay, but this was clearly not the case. We know of many areas across the country which have been delayed well beyond 12 months.

Worst still, once an area became ready for service, there were still many HFC premises within the area that were not ready to connect. For months on end, they would be delayed without any good explanation. Worse still, when making inquiries, residents would receive vague and flaky responses. In one example that was recently raised in Senate estimates, a resident in South Australia was supposed to have their HFC service first connected in February 2017. That connection then got delayed. Then in November 2017 there was a national pause in the HFC NBN rollout, due to the reliability and dropout issues. As a result, the connection date was delayed to June 2019, despite NBN Co saying at the time the delay would be an average of six to nine months. After having placed an order with an ISP well in advance, one week prior to June 2019 the resident was advised that their NBN connection would be delayed further. This occurred despite their neighbour's home being connected to the NBN on time. They were then told that they could connect to the NBN in January 2020. Then, only a few months later, that got delayed until June 2020. Then, after several follow-ups, the NBN advised that the website was incorrect and it was actually revised to March 2020.

This individual has chased up NBN Co and their local member countless times. Not once have the responses provided any useful information about why there has been delay upon delay. Not once has there been an adequate explanation of why their neighbours can connect and this individual has to wait an extra nine months for, apparently, minor pit works. When I raised the matter with NBN executives in Senate estimates, I received a reasonable explanation. So why couldn't this type of explanation simply have been provided directly to the consumer? There was no good explanation offered by NBN Co. Several days later, after having the light shone on them, NBN attended the premises of the resident who had experienced delay after delay and got him connected. So it shouldn't be that hard.

According to the NBN weekly report, there are 325,000 premises still classified as service class 0. These consumers deserve accurate and forthright information about the reason for their delay, even if this does not speed the process up. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.