Mr PASIN (Barker) (15:51): My favourite part of last week was when the Minister for Home Affairs looked across the dispatch box, eyed the Leader of the Opposition, and said, at the end of a question, ‘You’re in your dying days, brother.’ I loved it, because it spoke volumes about the pressure that the Leader of the Opposition was under.
I expect that over the course of the weekend—and the Leader of the Opposition has been speaking to all his senior shadow ministers—that he will be saying to them, ‘I need you to help; I need to lean in.’ Equally, I think that in the lead-up to this term that when the shadow minister for communications was appointed to that position she thought to herself: ‘Do you know what? I’m really going to make some mileage here with this NBN. I’m really going to hit the Liberal Party hard in relation to this issue.’
Sadly for her and sadly for our nation, we had a global pandemic. It hit this country hard. It saw tens of thousands—nay, hundreds of thousands—of Australians forced to relocate from their businesses to their homes. It saw schoolchildren having to undertake the task of in-home schooling. All of this put intense pressure on the NBN. So you would expect that the projections of those opposite that this was a second-rate scheme and that the rollout had been mismanaged—all of the rhetoric we’re hearing from those opposite today—would have meant that the NBN would have come crashing down. It would have been woefully inadequate for the needs of all these extra Australians who had relocated from business premises to their homes, both for work and for school as well.
But, Mr Deputy Speaker, I’m here to tell you that it’s not the experience of Australians, and it’s certainly not the experience that the Joint Standing Committee on the NBN has heard when it’s taken evidence on this issue publicly. We heard from a previous speaker about the ombudsman’s report and the one per cent of complaints. What we didn’t hear about was that the majority of those were not around speed or these sorts of things but rather connections and those kinds of logistical issues. So I suspect that what we have here is a shadow communications minister under pressure.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised to read the shadow minister in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, saying, ‘Secret figures show full fibre NBN may have cost $10 billion less than claimed’. Except they weren’t secret. Ironically, they were published on a website—in fact the NBN website—and they’ve been published since 13 December 2013. I expect that what’s happened here is that we have a Leader of the Opposition under pressure. In turn, he’s asking for support from his shadow ministers. They, in turn, ask their staff to look deeply into these issues—there must be something there!
We end up with a search of NBN’s own website, which reveals this information which it is suggested is secret. Talk about hiding in plain sight. This is a report about the NBN on the NBN website.
Now, when I came to this place in 2013—and it is a great privilege—I had a sum total of zero connections to the NBN in my electorate. I had not one, none, nada, nil, zilch—you can keep going if you like. I’m pleased to say that, because of the multitechnology mix, we now have a full rollout and over 99 per cent of premises eligible for connection. I say it was just in time because, of course, we lived through the pandemic and we continue to live through the pandemic. Those opposite connected 51,000 premises in six years for $6 billion. That is three per cent of Australia’s population. In a year more than that we’ve managed to roll out the NBN in my electorate to 96 per cent more people. If we’d waited for those opposite or adopted their model, we would have had Australians in the dark in the middle of a pandemic. Having the temerity to come into this place and suggest their plan would have been better beggars belief.