Terri Butler told the Parliament that "constructing a national broadband network is a nation-building project on the scale of freeways and railway. Like most grand schemes, it requires vision and should deliver benefits to consumers into the future. The Prime Minister, who was also the Communications Minister under this government, is completely unable to deliver the NBN that this country needs. His incompetence in the portfolio has been remarked upon widely within the sector and within the community."
Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (16:04): You heard the Member for Longman speak about internet nirvana—speaking of Nirvana, perhaps the Coalition ought to be all apologies, because of course to get fast broadband access you need a federal government with vision and the ability to deliver. They have shown themselves completely unable to be that federal government.
Australia's federal government should be focused on how to build the infrastructure our country needs for our digital future. Recently, Ros Page, a journalist writing for Choice, said:
Constructing a national broadband network (NBN) is a nation-building project on the scale of freeways and railway. Like most grand schemes, it requires vision and should deliver benefits to consumers into the future.
Unlike the Coalition, Labor has a vision for fast broadband access. The previous Labor government's policy of building a national broadband network was unabashedly ambitious and bold—the sort of vision needed to build a more productive future, promote growth and make sure that everyone gets a chance to share in the benefits. Our vision was for fibre cable to be connected to homes and business premises. We also planned to expand satellite and fixed wireless connections for remote areas. In government, we were delivering on this vision.
The Coalition never had this sort of vision for our nation's future. In 2010, the then Leader of the Opposition was suggesting that they would not even go ahead with the National Broadband Network; however, the now Prime Minister knew that they had to have something that looked like an NBN policy, so they came up with the idea of running fibre cables to nodes, claiming that this would cost $29½ billion. According to the conversation, their NBN speeds were to be about 20 times slower than Labor's.
But, after winning the election, they broke their broadband promises, as inadequate as they were—just like they did in all the other areas like health, education and pensions. Instead of the fibre-to-the-node plan, we got a new idea: something called the MTM. It should stand for 'Malcolm Turnbull's Mess' but it stands for multitechnolgy mix. Our new Prime Minister's NBN is mixed technology, not fibre optic cable. It is a second-rate NBN.
Ms Page, who I mentioned before, reported a Q&A with Mark Gregory, an engineering academic at RMIT and a columnist. She asked him:
Do we all really need fibre?
Yes. We need increased download speeds, less traffic shaping and far better backhaul capacity in Australia to provide improved quality of service for the applications that we use now and into the future.
And she asked:
Should the FTTP NBN use existing networks to save on cost—
as seems to be the plan under the Turnbull NBN. He said:
This should only be an interim measure while FTTP is being built. It could utilise fibre networks that go to dwellings …
The point was it should be an interim measure, because we all know that this is a second-rate NBN and what people really want is fibre.
So this Malcolm Turnbull's Mess NBN is a second-rate NBN and it costs more than Labor's plan. As I said, before the election, the now Prime Minister promised the NBN would cost $29.5 billion. After the election, he said $41 billion. Now he is saying $56 billion. That is almost double the amount in his original promise.
And the now Prime Minister's original commitment was that everyone would have 25 megabits per second by the end of 2016. Now that timeframe has more than doubled to the end of 2020, and yet, as The Conversation has recorded, demand for broadband has grown at about 30 to 40 per cent per year. The Conversation has said:
… it’s likely that domestic broadband domestic customers will be seeking bandwidths of more than 100 Mbps by 2020 and about 1 Gbps by 2035.
So this second-rate NBN that this government said it was going to try to deliver is completely inadequate for the needs of Australia's future.
And it is not a surprise, because, unfortunately, this Prime Minister, who was also the communications minister under this government, is completely unable to deliver the NBN that this country needs. His incompetence in the portfolio has been remarked upon widely within the sector and within the community. In fact, in his article entitled 'Malcolm Turnbull was Australia's worst ever Communications Minister', published on Monday of this week, Renai Le May of media outlet Delimiter said—
Dr Chalmers: What's it called?
Ms BUTLER: It is called 'Malcolm Turnbull was Australia's worst ever Communications Minister'—what a great title for an article! He said:
He might be charismatic, he might be popular, and pretty shortly he might be Prime Minister.
That turned out to be right. This was Monday.
But when it comes to technology policy, Malcolm Turnbull has been a disaster. The Member for Wentworth will be remembered as Australia’s worst ever Communications Minister …
And isn't that true? He was a hopeless Communications Minister.