With The Hon Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition and Susan Lamb, Labor Candidate for Longman.
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s NBN Service Guarantee; By-elections; Turnbull’s $80 billion corporate tax giveaway.
SUSAN LAMB, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR LONGMAN: Good morning everybody and welcome to the Morayfield Health Hub.
You know for too many people in Longman, for too long their experience withreliable internet connection has been at best, poor. Caboolture has consistently, consistently rated with the highest number of complaints in Queensland. Complaints from over 50,000 plus homes and businesses all through Longman.
So today, like I said we're here at the Morayfield Health Hub it's a service provider providing care and treatment and support for people in our community and doing that seven days a week. It's a service provider that knows just how critical it is to have a guaranteed service standard that says that they will no longer be a pawn in this blame shifting game between the NBN and telcos. Now with my community here in Caboolture we have been campaigning for years and years on this very very issue. And it's great to have Michelle Rowland and Bill Shorten here today to run us through the details of a commitment, Labor's commitment to fixing up this mess of this blame shifting game between NBNCo and the telcos. Thank you everyone.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much. Good morning everybody, it's great to be in Morayfield with Susan Lamb at this very remarkable Health Hub. I'm a little bit envious of the residents here it's such a fantastic service. In order to maximise the health outcomes for Australians we need to make sure they're getting access to a proper NBN and I had the opportunity to listen to a range of health care providers before coming here, and to listen to small businesses around Narangba, talk about the problems they've had to get the sort of NBN service, internet service which frankly some Australians already take for granted. There have been so many mistakes made in the last five years with the NBN you almost lose count. So what Labor is doing today is we're going to put the consumers and small businesses back at the centre of the NBN. We're proposing to create new NBN service guarantees.
Wherever I travel in Australia, but certainly in Queensland and certainly here in the electorate of Longman, one thing you always find is complaints about the NBN. Do you know in the last 12 months in 2017 the rise in complaints about the NBN has gone up 204per cent, but let me unpack that statistic a little more. What we have between July of 2017 and February of this year is 80,000 missed technician appointments.
You know my heart goes out to the working parents who take time off work, the small businesses who just want to get their service faults fixed, who want the connection and appointments made. 80,000 missed appointments, we've got the survey done by the NSW Chamber of Business which shows that when small businesses have to wait, not just days but weeks this is costing their businesses thousands of dollars.
So Labor today is going to change the rules, we're going to say let's have the NBN servicing the needs of Australian businesses and Australian consumers. You may not be aware but Caboolture's practically the ground zero for complaints in Queensland. For too long, indeed the last five years, the Turnbull Government has over promised and under delivered and the Prime Minister was the Communications Minister who made the very foolish decision to give Australia a cheap second rate copper technology, to make sure that NBN wasn't the quality service that it could be and instead we've all been landed with asecond rate service.
So we're going to change that, we're going to put the consumer back on top, small business back on top. So we're going to create new penalties when the NBNCo doesn't meet the service guidelines. It's not good enough for a company to say, we'll meet the service guidelines 90per cent of the time and then not worry about the other 10 per cent - that other 10 per cent are people. They're families, they're pensioners whose phones drop out and services drop out. They're small businesses who are literally pulling their hair out waiting time after time. So new service guarantees and we'll get the ACCC to oversight it and government will consult to make sure that these standards are the standards which put consumers first.
You know, when the people of Australia know that whenever they think about theshamozzle of the NBN they think about Malcolm Turnbull's mismanagement. I'd like to hand over to my shadow spokesperson, Michelle Rowland to talk further about the detail of putting the consumer and small business back on top in the NBN.
MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Thank you very much. It's 2018, access to affordable, quality, high speed broadband has never been more important and it will continue to be important into the future. Labor has been listening very closely to people right around Australia, individual consumers and small businesses and one thing is very clear when it comes to their frustrations with the National Broadband Network. That is, the lack of accountability that currently exists.
This lack of accountability means as Susan said, we have consumers being shunted between the NBN and their retail service provider when things go wrong. They get stuck in the middle with no resolution. We know that this is a huge issue for these people but no resolution is in sight.
So based on our consultations with ordinary Australians, with small businesses but also with the industry, with retailers, with consumer groups and other interested stakeholders, Labor has determined that we would develop an NBN service guarantee. This will cover service levels in relation to installations, fault repair and missed appointments becausecurrently they are simply unacceptable in terms of the delays that are being caused and the detriment that is being suffered by consumers and small businesses.
There will be penalties that will apply if NBN fails to meet these service standards and the way it will work is this,currently consumers have a relationship with their retail provider. The retail provider however, does not have meaningful service levels in its agreements with NBNCo who is the wholesale provider. So, by enabling that wholesale provider to pass on those service levels to the retailer, the retailer can then be more accountable to the end user.
This is fundamentally important as a first step to ensure that we have a better consumer experience on the NBN.
SHORTEN: Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Based on the number of complaints and house calls that are made currently, what's the estimated cost burden on the NBN announcement you are making today on the NBNCO?
SHORTEN: I'll answer that to begin with and I'll pass over to Michelle. When we look at the cost of making sure the NBNCo keeps its service guarantees there is already a cost. The cost has already been experienced by literally tens of thousands of businesses. The cost has already been experienced by families who have missed technician appointments. I was talking to a great young man who runs a business in Narangba, which is not far from here, basically there's streets of Naranga both private households and businesses who are getting the slowest speeds imaginable. So the real cost here is inaction and I'll get Michelle now to talk about how we're going to develop how we put consumers and small business back on top.
ROWLAND: Bill is absolutely right, this is about the cost that is already being incurred by consumers and small businesses. The impact on NBN Co will be determined by its response to these service standards, it will be determined by the penalty amounts that are developed, it will be determined by the application of those penalties and it will also be determined by the caps that will apply in the case of those penalties. These design elements will all be developed in government in consultation with the ACCC and NBN and other very important stakeholders as part of that process.
JOURNALIST: So there's no estimate on how much the NBNCo would be slugged say based on current number of complaints?
ROWLAND: Well again the point is this is about incentive regulation not just about penalties. When you put service levels in place at a telco in the telco sector, you're not only looking at penalties you're looking at incentivising behaviour so that costs are actually saved in the long run, but let's always remember that this is about the consumer, it is currently costing the consumer and the economy every year for the amount of complaints we have.
Up over 200 percent, 80,000 missed appointments, they are people who have taken time off work, so it is already costing the economy, it is already costing small businesses, it's already costing consumers and it's time that there was accountability put into it.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten can I just get your opinion on Mr Albanese's speech on Friday night, do you think it was threat to your leadership?
SHORTEN: No I have to say, we got the speech before it was delivered there was nothing in that speech which caused me any offence at all. I encourage my members of the united Labor team to put forward their views on the fair go and indeed in talking about the fair go, just returning to that earlier question as well, did you know that survey result showed that satisfaction with our NBN and broadband is the worst out of 28 countries? That's the cost of what's going on here.
I accept that my opposite number at Point Piper has access to fantastic internet speeds, the reality is that most people in Longman don't have access to those same speeds - I just want a fair go for everyone and I think that was what was motivating Anthony's talk as well.
JOURNALIST: Would you like for him to have dropped your name once or twice in the speech as the Opposition Leader?
SHORTEN: Oh I think in the version I saw there was some reference to me which was nice. Tell you what we're concerned about in the Labor party, we're not concerned about ourselves we're concerned about the people. I think most Australians are sick of politicians talking about ourselves, they want us to talk about the people.
That's why in this campaign with Susan Lamb we're talking about better health care, we're talking about making sure that the schools are properly funded, that kids from this part of Brisbane can get access to quality university education such as at the University of the Sunshine Coast which we announced on Friday and of course what people who've got absolutely stuffed up NBN want, is they want the politicians to focus on getting them better internet and better NBN.
Always remember that the one thing which Malcolm Turnbull has been in charge of for fiveyears, because he was both Communications Minister and now Prime Minister is the NBN. Every time you can't get a technician on time, every time you find your service drop out, every time you wish you hadn't made the switch over, every time you have the problems which businesses and health services and families and schools are reporting to me, always think of Malcolm Turnbull. Because he's the one who gave Australia an NBN, a broadband service $20 billion more than he said it would cost, four years later and with second rate copper technology.
JOURNALIST: Mathias Cormann has said that he would be open to bringing forward income tax cuts if economic conditions improve but wouldn't look at delaying them if they deteriorate. Does that make sense to you?
SHORTEN: No I think by your question it probably doesn't make sense to you either, that this is a government who is just making up promises on the run. They say if the economy gets better they give you income tax cuts earlier but they say if the economy gets worse, they'll still give you income tax cuts at the time they said. It's all nonsense, let's be straight here, the government has written a cheque on the national credit card for $144 billion for income tax cuts which principally go to the best, most well off 20 per cent. They're also trying to get us to vote for $80 billion worth of corporate tax cuts this week.
This government is spending billions and billions and billions of dollars all so they can get through the next election. They haven't explained how they pay for it. If you takequarter of a trillion dollars out of the nation’s ATM, out of the budget, well what happens to the money that you used to be spending? What happens to the services you used to supply? The government will have to say - what schools do they intend to close, what hospital wards will they have to shut, what NBN services are going to be less looked after than they otherwise would have been? Now this is a government who just governs for the top end of town. And again, I just promise Australians, we've got your interests at heart, we think it's more important that your kids can find an apprenticeship, that your school's properly funded. That you can get hospital care closer to where you live than further away and it should be your Medicare card not your credit card that determines your level of health.
There are very clear choices at the moment in Australian politics. I know a lot of people are turned off by politics, they just think it's x and y- banging on at each other and nothing ever seems to get solved. What I'm promising Australians is that we want to use scarce taxpayer money to make sure that when you're sick you can see the doctor, to make sure that your kids get a quality education and make sure that when it comes to infrastructure and jobs - especially in this part of Brisbane that this part of Brisbane gets its fair share, which it hasn't been getting.
JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to Mr Albanese since Friday?
SHORTEN: Yeah we had an amicable chat.
JOURNALIST: Did you read the riot act by any chance?
SHORTEN: No, he actually said to me he thought this whole debate was a bit overblown and I thought he was right.
JOURNALIST: Did you like the speech? Did you like it - you said you weren't offended but did you like it?
SHORTEN: Yeah you wouldn't want to read any nuance, when I said I wasn't offended, what I mean is it was fine by me.
JOURNALIST: Do you feel it was a distraction in the lead up to the by-elections?
SHORTEN: I think the government is desperate to leap on any distraction, aren't they? Who here is surprised that the government is trying to bully Labor and bully me into voting for these corporate tax cuts this week with some simplistic name calling about being anti big business. Let me make very clear for the record my views on big business. I will work with big business, I just won't work for big business. I'm not anti big business I'm just pro worker, I'm pro small business, I'm pro farmer, I'm pro pensioner, I'm pro a business in Narangba being able to access proper NBN. I'm pro a working class family in Caboolture being able to get their kid to be able to go to university at the Sunshine Coast University campus at the Petrie Mill.
My priorities are the priorities of everyday Australians, I think it is a dreadful, shocking waste of money to give away tens of billions of dollars to the big banks when we need to make sure that our hospitals and our aged care are working. It's just all about priorities, we just happen to believe in the fair go for working andmiddle class people - Mr Turnbull on the other hand, he just looks after the top end of town and his other mates.
JOURNALIST: If the government is not successful in passing the company tax cuts do you think they'll ditch them before the next election?
SHORTEN: We all know the government, if they had the numbers in the Senate will pass corporate tax cuts, whether or not they succeed this time or another time the only way you can stop corporate tax cuts for the big banks and multinationals is to make sure they lose the election and that starts here with Susan Lamb but it doesn't stop here. You can't trust the government when they say that they're for everyday battlers because their voting record indicates otherwise. This is a government who in this two week session of parliament has given away $7,000 tax cuts for millionaires and $10 a week tax cuts for aged care workers, this is a government next week who wants to give the four big banks $17 billion dollars, yet cut $17 billion from our schools. This government is out of touch with how real people live their lives and nothing I thought showed the out of touch behaviour of this Prime Minister and this government when asked about a 60 year old aged care worker last week and how could they get a better tax cut - he said get a better job.
Do you know what I want our aged care workers to get better payin the job they're doing. I want our aged care workers to work in establishments and facilities where there are proper ratios. I want to make sure aged care workers are working in a system where people have the resources to deal with dementia and other diagnoses which come with the onset of ageing. Thanks everybody.
Oh one last question.
JOURNALIST: Could I just ask you on another matter in regards to Nick Champion?
SHORTEN: Yeah sure and one more too.
JOURNALIST: Just briefly on Jacinda Ardern she's had a little baby, do you think a female leader in Australia could have the same treatment here in Australia - be welcomed, be excited for them?
SHORTEN: I hope so. Michelle who's next to me has had children in the course of her parliamentary career.
ROWLAND: Six and eighteen months.
SHORTEN: Six and eighteen months, so yeah I think Jacinda Ardern and Clark- I wish them well to baby Neve, you know great. I know Chloe and I have sent our best wishes to them and it was - the point was made to me by none other than Susan Lamb that if Jacinda ever wanted to send her child to a university in Australia, our announcement on Friday with building the super laboratory at the Petrie Mill site would mean that maybe the University of Sunshine Coast might be somewhere where Jacinda wants to send baby Neve when she's a bit older.
JOURNALIST: Just in regards to Nick Champion do you think he's the right person for a spot on your frontbench or should it go to a senior woman?
SHORTEN: First of all, I'm very lucky in my caucus that I have so many talented people from Tanya and Penny Wong to Chris Bowen and Anthony Albanese and others and Michelle Rowland. We've got a lot of very talented backbenchers I think Nick has got a great future in front of him. I think when it comes to the next vacancy, I think it's probably more likely that a woman will be selected and I tell you one thing, the Labor party is almost at 50 percent of our MPs being women. We're a party who actually believe that your political party should represent the community which they come from, but we can also say that we promote women on merit because the women Labor candidates are just simply outstanding and perhaps on that happy note I might just say, if we want to see more women in parliament - Susan Lamb in Longman is someone we're very keen to have back.