news Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has blasted Coalition Senators for not asking a single question in Senates Estimates sessions that would test the claims of Opposition Communications Spokesman Malcolm Turnbull about the adequacy of current satellite capacity to serve Australia’s remote and regional communities.
In a media release issued this week, Conroy said: “In more than one hundred minutes of the Senate Estimates hearing, Coalition Senators did not ask a single question to test Mr Turnbull’s claims regarding existing capacity as a viable alternative to NBN Co’s satellite investment.”
Last week, the Gillard Government had announced that NBN Co would invest $620 million for building two dedicated broadband satellites to service the most remote three per cent of Australia. However, Turnbull disputed the need to invest so much in fast and affordable broadband for regional Australia, calling the investment wasteful. “There is enough capacity on private satellites already in orbit or scheduled for launch for the NBN to deliver broadband to the 200,000 or so premises in remote Australia without building its own,” he wrote on his blog. Turnbull had also claimed that outsourcing or leasing capacity would be more appropriate.
Conroy demanded that Turnbull explain to Australians exactly what this entailed. Answers were needed for: which of the existing satellites had the capacity to service regional and remote Australia; the names of the Ka-band satellites that were scheduled to be launched and the orbital slot they would occupy; and how much of their capacity would be focussed on Australia.
He also demanded that the Australian public be told exactly what the Coalition’s actual broadband policy was and how much it would cost them. “It is about time Mr Turnbull came clean with details and facts rather than offering up a continued spurious, predictable and negative campaign on the NBN,” said Conroy.
Speaking to Delimiter last week about Australia’s current satellite capacity and how NBN Co should best meet its government policy demands, NBN Co’s Project Director Matt Dawson had said, “We’ve taken two years to go through this every which way, [seeing] what’s available, what’s becoming available, where the bandwidth is laid down. Is it C-band, is it I-band, is it KA-band.” He had also explained that apart from servicing outlying areas, the proposed satellites would boost speeds, and ensure there was no loss of signal, by migrating users off one satellite to the other in case either satellite partially or totally failed.
Conroy went on to say, “Given the lack of detail from Mr Turnbull, it is hardly surprising when it came to his colleagues having the chance to back him in Estimates by questioning the Government and Mike Quigley, the CEO of NBN Co, they did not ask a single question about it.” He further added that Estimates was the key forum for Parliament to hold accountability of management of Government programs.
“You would think, given the noise created by Mr Turnbull after this announcement, his colleagues would ask at least one question on the issue. Could it be that they simply do not believe him?” asked Conroy. He ended by saying that Turnbull had put his credibility on the line when he questioned the credentials of NBN Co’s management team, and that his colleagues had abandoned him.
Image credit: NBN Co