SUBJECTS: Malcolm Turnbull’s second-rate NBN; criminalising image-based abuse; digital inclusion; 5G

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Well tomorrow, I am reliably informed, marks an important milestone. It will be the day on which the Coalition will have had stewardship of the National Broadband Network for longer than Labor. And it's instructive to look at where we are.

We have a situation where the Prime Minister, and of course he was the Minister for Communications, promised that every premises in Australia would have minimum speeds by the end of 2016. That date came and went.

He promised his second-rate NBN would be delivered for $29.5 billion and it’s blown out by $20 billion. And look at the number of customer complaints we have about the NBN.  A 160 per cent increase in complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. Consumers are being left behind.

The reality is this: the National Broadband Network under Labor has always been a values proposition. It's about equality of opportunity. Regardless of where you live or work in Australia or what your means, you will be able to participate in the digital economy.

But what really irks about the latest revelations we have in Senate Estimates about Malcolm Turnbull is that for years he railed against the need for high-speed broadband. He said basically, there's no need for households to have 100Mbps speeds. He stood there next to Tony Abbott when he announced his 2013 policy, where Tony Abbott said 25Mbps is more than enough for the average household.

The issue that irks is this: this was supposed to be the “Innovation Prime Minister”, the person who supposedly invented the internet, who understood the importance of scaleablility, the importance of not underestimating the future needs in the digital economy. And yet we have this Prime Minister, who not only leaves Australians behind when it comes to the National Broadband Network, but also has shown a distinct lack of care for consumers. Just look at some of his answers in Question Time yesterday. Mentions of consumers and empathy for those consumers was pretty thin on the ground. So, as we reach this milestone let’s remember, and let's also reflect on the fact, that this was always a values proposition. And under this government, values are nowhere to be seen.

JOURNALIST: The PM has flagged criminalising revenge porn. Do you think that's a good idea and what sort of mechanisms should be made available?

ROWLAND: Thank you for the question and Labor indeed took to the last election a policy to criminalise revenge porn, or as it’s known, non-consensual sharing of these particular images, so image-based abuse. Labor took that to the last election. We actually had a Private Members Bill that lapsed because the government wouldn't bring it on. We had the government bring forward its own Bill and we had the Senate amend that Bill to say that this should be criminalised, essentially in the same terms as Labor's own Bill. The government instead said, "No, we are pursuing the path of civil penalties", but it appears now to have changed its tune.

We welcome them following Labor's lead on this. It's very clear through discussions at COAG and many other bodies who have given evidence on this point, that revenge porn is something that should be criminalised. So, Labor will look very closely at these proposals. We will work closely with the government wherever possible on this matter. But as I said, this has been long-standing Labor policy which we know is widely supported and we will work constructively to help make this happen. We're glad the government is following Labor's lead. 

JOURNALIST: Just on another point, I haven't asked you yet. It’s early days but what are your goals for the year?

ROWLAND: I have three goals. Firstly, it's to continue to prosecute the case for a world-class National Broadband Network in Australia and to hold the government to account for its failings in this area.

The second point is about digital inclusion. We have a situation where, as I mentioned, connectivity is integral to that, we need to understand as a Parliament how important it is, not only for small businesses who need this inclusion, but also for students and what 'the internet of things' is going to bring. I think 2018 will actually be the milestone because we're talking so much about the upcoming relevance of 5G technology. It really is an important base this year to really bed down those principles.

And the third, as I mentioned, is 5G. 5G is a technology which is not on the horizon, it's actually just about to hit us. We need to understand what that means. We need to understand how we get the principles right in Australia. Because, of course, a lot of these matters to do with radiocommunications are settled at a global level. But we need to ensure that Australia is ready to participate in that. Australia's had a really good track record for good uptake of new technologies, particularly mobile technologies, as they emerge. And Australians will do that if they have confidence. They will do that if the market settings are right and they will do that if the regulatory settings are right.