NBN – The Prime Minister’s Mess


Peter Khalil: I thank the member for Greenway for raising this matter of public importance, because the electorate of Wills is almost a microcosm of Australia and the staggering failures of this government in rolling out the NBN are so pronounced in Wills and have affected so many people. The member for Lyne said that the NBN started out on the back of a coaster on a plane. Well, this government’s online policy framework would not take up a drink coaster. Labor comes up with the ideas and this government destroys them. When I say my electorate of Wills is a microcosm of Australia, in the southern part of Wills residents enjoy the economic, social, educational and entertainment benefits of world-class, fibre-to-the-premises connectivity that was rolled out under the previous Labor government. In fact, I am lucky to be one of those residents. I live in the suburb of Brunswick, which had fibre to the premises, fibre to the home, rolled out before the coalition took government. Just north of my street, however, residents are cursed with Malcolm’s mess, the Prime Minister’s mess—a shoddy, third-rate internet in an age when businesses and residents are increasingly reliant on internet connectivity.

The Prime Minister’s mess, and let us be very clear about this: a broadband connection in 2016 is not merely a luxury item; it is an essential utility. I rose in this place on 12 October to speak about how shocked and disappointed I was to discover that the scheduled rollout of the NBN to the suburbs of Pascoe Vale, Glenroy, Fawkner, Gowanbrae, Hadfield and Coburg was sneakily cancelled by this government. That is right, it just quietly disappeared from the NBN website, but many residents noticed. Even though they might be on ADSL, they actually go and look at that website because they are anticipating a rollout into their suburbs. I regularly hear complaints from constituents in those northern suburbs of Melbourne about the quality of their internet connection being so poor. That same week that my constituents were reeling from the disappointment of their long-awaited upgrade being pulled from under them, the Prime Minister proclaimed on 11 October that the coalition’s NBN was ‘one of the great corporate turnarounds in Australia’s history’. I am astounded by that comment, especially in light of what was occurring in my electorate that very same week. But the Prime Minister was right: it did turn around from a world-class, fibre-to-the-premises NBN delivered by a Labor government to the Prime Minister’s mess.

The debacle in Wills is not unique. There is a litany of government failures on the NBN since they have taken control. The coalition promised Australia that their version of the NBN would cost $29.5 billion. Apart from the technological inferiority of the fibre-to-the-kerb or the fibre-to-the-node solution that they have presented to Australians, it is now apparent that the cost of their already technologically crippled NBN has blown out to at least $54 billion from $29.5 billion.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has also reported that complaints about faults on NBN services have jumped by 147 per cent under the coalition’s stewardship of the NBN. Complaints about slow internet speeds have soared by 48 per cent. For a service which is supposed to improve internet service for Australians, this is a catastrophic failure by the government.

And I am sure we all remember Mr Turnbull’s promise to provide every Australian household with access to the NBN by the end of 2016. Well, he has 39 days left. The Prime Minister has 39 days left to meet this promise—39 days, and almost eight million Australian households are still waiting for any upgrade to their homes and the fibre to their homes. Many of those households and businesses are in my electorate of Wills, and I know from many of the speakers we have heard today that this is replicated right across Australia.

So many people are frustrated, angry and upset that they are being dudded. So I ask: what does the Prime Minister have to say to all these people? What does he have to say to all the people of Wills and all the people across Australia? What has the Prime Minister to say about dudding them with his fizzer of a policy?