SUBJECTS: National security and 5G technology; Labor’s NBN Service Guarantee.
KIERAN GILBERT: With me now the Shadow Communications Minister, Michelle Rowland. What's your view on this debate around Huawei and any potential involvement in the 5G network?
MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Well 5G will be extremely important, Kieran. It will be transformative. It's been talked about as heralding in the industrial internet, so it's vitally important that we get it right, that we get the regulatory settings right, and I should stress that it has always been a bipartisan position that on matters such as this – we take our advice from our national security agencies and the experts and the case for 5G will be no different.
GILBERT: And it's got to be done in terms of national security considerations, but on a fair and transparent basis as well, I guess, as opposed to any hysteria around foreign investment right now?
ROWLAND: Well that's the way it has always worked and this actually is not a novel concept for the telco sector, Kieran. It's long been recognised that networks are pieces of critical infrastructure, that they need to be protected from unauthorised access and interference and that they serve a very important role in assisting in the prevention of crime, including very serious crimes like terrorism, but also in enabling law enforcement agencies to do their jobs every day. So this is actually something that's not novel for the telcos, and the laws that will come into effect soon will in fact codify a number of areas –
GILBERT: The foreign interference laws you mean?
ROWLAND: – some of those laws around unauthorised access and interference and notifying agencies where they could be an impact on that; that has largely been done on a voluntary basis, although there are obviously laws around it. This will essentially codify what's been going on that can only be a good thing.
GILBERT: When you look at Huawei, there is technology, as I mentioned to the Trade Minister before the break, embedded in the technology and telco frameworks of Five Eyes allies like Canada and the UK already, and in fact, some Huawei technology is already in our telecommunications system already. So it's not like this hasn't been used before or engaged before, this particular company.
ROWLAND: You're absolutely correct, Kieran. The fundamental issue is we always rely on the advice of our experts in our national security agencies and that's always been done on a bipartisan basis.
GILBERT: Should you be, on another matter the NBN Service Guarantee that Labor is undertaking if you win the next the election, you're basically overriding the consumer watch dog in that sense aren't you, and also ACMA? They're already the cops on the beat. Why not empower them?
ROWLAND: Well that's not the case, and I know that the government's trying to push this line –
GILBERT: That's their argument.
ROWLAND: – that it's already been done. Two very important issues there. The first is that we have consumer complaints that have gone up over 200% about the NBN. 80,000 missed appointments in a year. We've got service standards in the wholesale agreement that NBN supplies to retailers that actually don't have meaningful remedies, and herein lies the frustration of consumers. It's that there's this lack of accountability when it comes to the NBN. For the retailer, they can control so much, but at a wholesale level there are things that they can't control. So we've consulted very widely, including with retailers, consumer groups, consumers themselves, going right around Australia and hearing their frustrations. We also have been consulting with small business and so we understand that what they need is this accountability.
Now the Minister wants to point out that the ACCC and the ACMA are already doing this; well I'll make three points on that aspect. The first is the Minister likes to talk about the ACCC doing work in speed monitoring. Well he actually received a recommendation to do speed monitoring from the ACCC. He sat on it for over a year. The ACCC commenced an investigation into wholesale service levels and whether they should be appropriate. His own department made a submission against that, despite the fact that so many people are calling for it. And lastly, he talked about having good consumer safeguards in 2016, did nothing about it and then felt the need to re-announce it earlier this year when consumer complaints went through the roof. This government has no credibility on this issue. It likes to call itself the party of small business. The NSW Chamber has actually come out and supported the policy. So we know there's only one party in town that's sticking up for consumers on the NBN and that's Labor.
GILBERT: Michelle Rowland, I appreciate your time. Thanks very much.