Few things better exemplify this Prime Minister being all talk, all spin, or buzzwords, but no delivery than his failed National Broadband Network.
The disappointment felt by Australians in this Prime Minister, who promised so much but delivered so little on the National Broadband Network, is truly something to behold. Today in this parliament the Prime Minister was asked two questions and his responses say it all. On the first, he was challenged on the fact that he promoted particular technologies over others, that he would somehow be able to deliver with his multi-technology mix—MTM, or 'Malcolm Turnbull's mess' as we know it—that he would somehow deliver the holy trinity of promises: faster, sooner and more affordable. On each count it has been fail, fail, fail. On each count he has let the Australian people down.
I note my specific question about his bungling of HFC. In his answer he did not refer once to HFC, because he was completely incapable of defending the mess that he has made in this area. And with respect to the member for Cowan's question, he gave his typical condescending response, basically saying the voters of Cowan got it wrong. He gave the lecture he loves to give about how he knows everything. But what he is missing is the knowledge that we on this side of the House have, and that is the lived experience of our constituents, the lived experience of those people we represent, who have been let down, who are living in broadband backwaters and who cannot in many cases even get basic internet standards. It took three years of dictation from his then leader, whom he despised, the member for Warringah. He gave him a remit to destroy the National Broadband Network. And who will ever forget that unedifying spectacle of then Prime Minister Abbott, with his communications minister, and supposedly Sonny Bill Williams, announcing that by 2016 every Australian would have minimum broadband speeds. Well, he has 81 days to go. So good luck. As he just said in his answer earlier today, there are just over one million premises connected and only seven million to go—in 81 days.
When this Prime Minister came to office he knew he would not be able to deliver on the promises he made in this area, but he persisted with them to all ends. When Labor was in government we knew we needed to deliver a future-proof set of infrastructure for the 21st century and beyond—the best infrastructure we could provide. This Prime Minister has ignored that, and every single assumption that has gone into his mess has been proven utterly wrong in every respect.
But you do not need to take it from me. You can take it from then-senator Barnaby Joyce and Senator Fiona Nash, who is now a minister in this area. On 7 April 2009, when Labor was announcing the NBN, they claimed credit for it. In fact, they said the NBN stood for the 'Nationals Broadband Network'. The plan from them was to roll out fibre optic cable. They said that rolling out fibre optic infrastructure across Australia would be like a 'glass Snowy'. Let's look at what else Senator Nash had to say about copper, the current government's preferred delivery mechanism:
The Copper Age was 5,300 years ago, and that is where copper belongs. We need to embrace optic fibre, wireless and satellite so that we have the right mix of infrastructure to take us into the future.
And I will give Senator Nash even more credit, because she labelled anything that was fibre to the nodes as 'fraudband':
It’s widely understood in the telecommunications industry that FTTN will not deliver improved broadband speeds to rural and regional areas.
Those opposite—and I see the minister here at the table, the member for Bradfield, ready to have a go—are very keen to point out what they would see as the evidence to show that their plan is working. Well, let's have a look at what the minister had to say in June 2011 about fibre. He talked about how Japan, for example, which had 55 per cent of its total broadband services delivered over fibre, actually did not rate that well and was only two places ahead of Australia in the internet speed rankings. Let's look at where Australia is today. At that time—he quoted the OECD figures—Japan, favouring fibre, was only two slots ahead of Australia. Today Australia is rated, on the Akamai broadband speed rankings, as 56th; Japan is No. 7. Australia is languishing in 56th spot. And where were we? Where did we stand in 2013, when Labor left office? We were 30th.
On this Prime Minister's watch, Australia dropped to 60th in the world, beaten by an array of other countries, including most of the countries in our region. But few things typify this Prime Minister's utter duplicity on the National Broadband Network as much as when those opposite, and the Prime Minister in particular, hailed the NBN satellites as a great game changer, the second one being launched last week—a great game changer. But what did he say in 2012 when Labor commissioned these satellites? I will tell you what he said: 'more wasteful NBN spending', and he called them a Rolls Royce solution. Not only that, but he advocated leasing capacity from a third-party satellite provider. Such is this guy's business acumen—do you know what happened to that satellite provider? It went bankrupt. Such is the business acumen of this Prime Minister. Not content with the duplicity in this area, this Prime Minister is now stuffing up the connection process for the NBN. We have had retail service providers who are using the NBN satellites reporting that they have connected around 10,000 customers—Activ8me, for example—but have 24,000 customers waiting to be activated because this government had three years with its own hand-picked team to work out how they were going to do activations and have completely stuffed it up. You listen to anyone in rural Australia who has been trying to connect to Sky Muster. The fact is that Labor put those birds up in the sky. It is this government that is letting them down, with a third-rate connection process, denying them what would end up being the great ending of the digital divide when it comes to broadband access.
Again, the people of Australia know this. Last week we had the release of the Essential poll as to who has the best NBN. The Labor plan rated 42 per cent. What did the Liberal government's plan rate? A measly 27 per cent. Even more worrying for this government, and something they should take note of, was the number of Liberal voters who think their policy is absolute rubbish. I point to the fact that under Labor's NBN we were able to deliver real transformational change for small businesses, for education, for health care. Few things typify this better than a company in my own electorate called The Good Egg Studio, which is set up in Riverstone, which was the site of the first Sydney metro rollout. Warren Kirby, the proprietor, has said:
We have the full fibre to the premises model and it works so well we can run our business from here without any problem.
So, what has this government actually delivered? It has not delivered faster, sooner and more affordable. It is slow, it is expensive, it is obsolete.
The residents of Australia know what they want out of their broadband services and they are not afraid to demand it. Just the week before last I was in Perth with the member for Perth and a number of our other Western Australian members. On a wet and windy night, we had over 120 people come to a forum to demand a real broadband network. They know that the state of the copper is such that they will not get what they need through this. So you do not have to take it from me. If this government would listen to their own constituents, they would know that they are not delivering for the Australian people.