With Senator Anne Urquhart and Senator Deb O'Neill. 

It appears not even the Australian Senate has been spared the wrath of the ‘Fifield Triangle’ – a vortex of drift which delays almost everything in its path.

On 24 May 2017, the Coalition Chair of the Senate Communications Committee expressed her frustration at the Turnbull Government’s second-rate performance in responding the Questions on Notice in relation to the NBN:

Senator Reynolds: “I was quite dismayed last night to get, I think, 106 responses arriving when we were here at estimates yesterday for another portfolio between 8.00 and 10.30 last night, which did not give any of my colleagues time to read or digest the answers. It has been two months.”

Senator Urquhart proceeded to put this in context a day later:

Senator Urquhart: “The Finance Department had answered 100 per cent of its 129 questions on time. Prime Minister and Cabinet had answered 73.6 per cent of its 229 questions on time. The Department of Foreign Affairs had answered 98.7 of its 154 questions on time…. Yet NBN Co only answered 11 of its 145 question by the due date. This amounts to NBN answering a meagre 7.5 per cent of its questions on time”

This effort was so poor the Department’s Secretary wrote to NBN to remind the agency of its obligations to be timely and transparent.

Unfortunately, the standard of performance remains well below where it should be. Only 4 out of 91 questions from the 15 June spill-over Budget Estimates were answered on time. 78 questions arrived late, a further 9 questions remain unanswered, and several of the late responses offered the bizarre non-response below:

NBNCo: “The volume of detailed questions on notice and the limited time available to respond mean that NBN must prioritise questions that are not answered in whole or in part in regular reporting vehicles such as weekly updates”

Apparently, it’s all too hard.

Today Minister Fifield was asked to explain himself in the Senate and could not provide a definitive date on when responses to the remaining questions would be released. The Minister then upped and left, and relied on Senator Ian MacDonald to assist in explaining his tardiness. You can imagine how that went.

This slow and unreliable approach to the Senate mirrors the experience of Australians on the copper NBN.

Labor calls on Minister Fifield to get his act together, and ensure the Senate receives timely responses to assist with its oversight of this important $50 billion infrastructure project.