SUBJECT: NBN complaints surge in TIO Annual Report.
MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: The Communications Minister said 2017 would be “the year of the customer”. Instead, it has become the year of the customer complaint. The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman figures released today are a damning indictment on the mismanagement of the NBN under Malcolm Turnbull. We see a 159% increase in complaints about the NBN. We see, for the first time, complaints about internet services have overtaken all other categories. And what does this Prime Minister say in response? When asked this morning about what he would do about it, he gave a smirk. He also said, this was “just a fact of life” to have these sorts of complaints. It just shows how out of touch Malcolm Turnbull is. When you've got consumers, small businesses, students, young and old people all around the country, the only thing they're wanting is a decent internet service and you see time and again this Prime Minister simply brush aside their concerns. This is simply not good enough. In 2017 every Australian deserves access to the highest quality broadband and this government is failing consumers at every turn.
JOURNALIST: The Minister saying that this is happening in line with the NBN rollout, because there are more customers getting it of course there are going to be more complaints. What’s your reaction to those sorts of comments?
ROWLAND: When you look at the TIO figures the reality is this: for the first time we see the growth in complaints overtaking the growth in services. Last year, for example, there was a 100 per cent increase in complaints but a 124 per cent increase in services. This year, we see a 159 per cent increase in complaints and a 122 per cent increase in services. So in fact, it's getting worse. We are going backwards in terms of meeting customer needs. It is simply not good enough for this government to say everything will be sorted out and these are the sorts of things to be expected. We need to have greater transparency. We need to have greater powers for the TIO to investigate and resolve complaints and we can't have consumers stuck in this endless ping pong between the NBN and Retail Service Providers about whose problem it is. The buck needs to stop somewhere. It needs to stop with this government to make it better.
JOURNALIST: So what should they do to make it better in concrete terms?
ROWLAND: The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman should be given increased powers, so that anyone in the supply chain of those services can be made to play their part in resolving it. That includes the NBN. There should also be greater accountability as part of this process. Consumers understand that they're not going to get it right every time, but they do not expect to have such lengthy delays in getting outcomes for their complaints. They are not satisfied with the fact that they have technicians not turning up on time, missing appointments and simply not getting anyone to take responsibility. Now myself and my Labor colleagues, we've been out and about across Australia and people are telling us time and again that they are simply not being listened to. Well, I can assure them that Labor has been listening to their concerns that they want accountability, that they want transparency, that they want some actual outcomes, not this second-rate response from a second-rate network being given to them under Malcolm Turnbull.
JOURNALIST: Would Labor return to its original plan and put fibre to the doors?
ROWLAND: Labor has always maintained that the best response, that the best approach, to broadband should be fibre as deep as possible into the network. And we know that this government abandoned that in 2013 and opted for this multi-technology mix which relies on copper. We would love to see fibre as the predominant technology. We understand that, in the event we are elected, we will need to deal with the realities on the ground and where the rollout is at and it's for this reason that we have been calling on the government now to start putting fibre as deep as possible into the network, to take it at least to the kerb. Fibre to the Curb in areas that are currently not in the design or construction phase for the Fibre to the Node copper rollout.