SUBJECTS: Malcolm Turnbull’s second-rate NBN and medical alarms 

LEON BYRNER: Let's talk to Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland. Michelle, were you aware of this?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: In the switch, Leon, to fibre-to-the-node technology, one of the consequences of that is as you say, a lot of these issues that previously people thought they can't possibly be affected by, they are being affected by. I'm particularly concerned and it's been brought to my attention by medical alarm providers and also by Steve Georganas who is one of your local Members there, that he is now receiving a large number of enquiries from people about whether their medical alarms are going to work with the new network and it is a serious cause for concern. We're going to be interrogating this in the Parliament over the next few days as we have our Estimates processes. And there are some very specific questions that have been brought to my attention, not only by these medical alarm providers, but by members of the community because basically when they make enquiries they're given a glossy brochure by NBNCo but it tells them two things. Firstly, this could impact on your medical alarm, and you should check with your provider. And I think we need to ensure that everyone has the maximum amount of information available so they can make decisions around this because it is a very serious issue, particularly for elderly and vulnerable people.

BYRNER: Had you heard the suggestion before that if there is an issue here as we've explained in the right context you should go to UHF?

ROWLAND: I hadn't heard about UHF but that would seem to me to be one of the technologies that is not readily available. But I don't work at NBNCo, I hear you had an executive there, but I think that we really need to ensure that NBNCo is communicating with the community because as you say -

BYRNER: They are, but the question is that's just unacceptable. By having a faster speed and there's a power outage, that can happen anywhere for all sorts of reasons then you're in big trouble because you've got no contact with anyone.

ROWLAND: You're absolutely right and one of the big concerns that's also being raised, Leon, is that there are different types of medical alarms. Some of them are monitored, some of them are capable of being shifted onto the 3G network for example, and again you raise the question about whether or not that's going to work in an emergency, but some of them are ones that aren't monitored. And I've had particular complaints from some of these providers who use the non-monitored ones and you might be questioning well why would you use one of those. For some people it is a lot cheaper and it's all they need, but if it's not going to work in an emergency we've got thousands of people out there who in a power outage will find out that their service is simply not available.

BYRNER: So what do you do? An emergency kit - have you ever heard of this and what ought to be in it, do you know?

ROWLAND: This idea of an emergency kit I think would come as a surprise to a lot of people because, quite frankly, we assume that our communications networks are going to work when we need them which is basically 24/7.

BYRNER: The Coalition and the ALP have different models of NBN but I need to ask this very basic point. Was it ever envisaged, to your knowledge, that within the installation to the node, that this would be the result - that you would actually be vulnerable. Was that recognised from the beginning?

ROWLAND: I think this was recognised, and if you ask any engineer they would tell you this, and as I've been arguing for some time; the whole point about the consequence of this technology shift is one that this government has not properly explained, and I will be certainly interrogating this over the next couple of days in our parliamentary processes.

BYRNER: Okay. That's Michelle Rowland who is the Shadow.