Morrison’s NBN a costly disaster

Published on Tue 23 February 2021 2:38pm

We grasped the NBN nettle and we set out to deliver a fibre-rich network to the people of Australia. They came along and, within the first five minutes of this now eight-year-long government, they put us on the path to an enduring disaster.

Mr Wilson (3:35pm) – What a disaster! What a disaster the National Broadband Network has turned out to be! What a disaster that contribution from the minister was! This is a broadband network that is slow, expensive, uneven and unfair. It is easily the most important infrastructure project in this country in the last 50 years. It ought to be the foundation of our future prosperity, productivity, innovation, new business development and new service delivery. It ought to be the foundation of all of those things in the 21st century. Instead, we get the slow, expensive multi-technology mess from those opposite.

The facts speak for themselves, and the Australian people know and smell failure when it’s put in front of them. We’re the 13th-largest economy in the world. Our broadband speeds place us 62nd in the world. That’s the reality of the multi-technology mess delivered by those opposite. New Zealand is the 52nd-largest economy. They have the 27th-highest speeds, just across the ditch. You know why? Because they knew what to do at the outset. They did it once, they did it right and they did it with fibre. That’s what all of the experts in the sector tell you. That’s what any sensible economist would tell you to do. But, no, those opposite had to come along. They didn’t make up this disaster themselves. They actually had the rudiments of a decent plan that the Labor Party introduced. We grasped the NBN nettle and we set out to deliver a fibre-rich network to the people of Australia. They came along and, within the first five minutes of this now eight-year-long government, they put us on the path to an enduring disaster. Everything they’ve said about the second-rate copper version of the NBN has turned out to be wrong. They said they’d deliver a high-speed broadband network. They’ve missed all their targets. They’ve missed the speed targets at the low end. They’ve missed the speed targets at the high end. We are 62nd in the world.

They’ve put in place now a broadband network that is more or less obsolete at the point of delivery. That’s what the geniuses opposite have delivered. They said that they would deliver a cheaper broadband network. That’s what you will always get from those opposite. They will always build down to a lowball price rather than building up to a standard when it comes to the most critical piece of infrastructure in this nation—and they couldn’t even do that. They couldn’t even deliver on that lowball, cut-price, copper-bottom, second-rate piece of rubbish. They said it would be $29 billion. Then they said it would be $41 billion. Now it’s already north of $57 billion, and it is obsolete at the point of delivery.

Do it once, do it right, do it with fibre. What did they do? They did it once, badly, stupidly, with copper—a slow, second-rate, 62nd-ranked-in-the-world service. Now what are they doing? They’re going back and they’re doing it again. They’re going to pay more money to run fibre down the streets to deliver a fibre-rich network, which was the recipe we left to them from the outset. It’s as if you decide to build an airline and you take some train rolling stock and superglue wings on the side and you say, ‘There’s our new national airline.’ People say to you: ‘You know, you can hop on those and you’ll go somewhere, incredibly slowly and noisily. There’s not a lot of altitude, though—just saying.’ So you come back later and say, ‘Why don’t we build the rest of the aeroplane where the train was.’ That’s what this government has done, and the people of Australia know it.

We saw a person this morning at a UNICEF breakfast, a young woman from Orange in New South Wales. She was asked: ‘How did you find dealing with the challenges of the pandemic? How did you find it went with your educational needs? How did you find it when it came to accessing telehealth for mental health services and other counselling?’

She said, ‘Those services aren’t too bad, but the problem is that I can’t get them through the National Broadband Network, because it is so hopeless.’ She had to participate in classes by taking a laptop and sitting at the top of a silo. That’s what she had to do. People in rural, regional and remote Australia are driving from one property to another with their laptop to ‘borrow the internet’ from other people for basic business upgrades and to access basic services.

That’s what the representatives on that side have delivered for rural and regional Australians. Rather than focusing on this massive disaster and doing something about it, they’re now secretly gathering together to try to deliver nuclear power to Australia. That’s the kind of responsible conduct and representative action you get from those opposite. Today we’ve heard about a distinctly Australian approach. We did not get a distinctly Australian approach to the NBN. That was Labor’s approach: a sensible, science based, fibre-rich network. What we got from those opposite was absolute economic and technological madness, a deeply stupid idea prosecuted and perpetrated by false claims and cover-ups that have saddled Australians with a lemon.

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