news Communications Minister Mitch Fifield this afternoon refused to substantially answer questions in the Senate about leaked internal NBN documents showing that the cost of remediating Telstra’s copper network has blown out by a factor of ten times to $641 million, instead attacking Labor for its performance with respect to the project.
Under Labor’s previous near-universal Fibre to the Premises model for the NBN, the HFC cable and copper networks owned by Telstra and Optus would have been shut down. However, the Coalition’s Multi-Technology Mix plan instituted by Malcolm Turnbull as Communications Minister in the Abbott administration is seeing them acquired and upgraded by the NBN company.
The NBN company and the Government have consistently attempted to block the release of information detailing how much it will cost the NBN company on a per node basis to deploy the Coalition’s preferred Fibre to the Node technology on Telstra’s copper network, as well as information pertaining to how much the remediation of Telstra’s copper network will cost.
However, internal documents released by the Opposition today showed that, by the NBN company’s own estimates, the cost of remediating Telstra’s network had blown out by a factor of ten, to about $641 million, with the cost of rolling out infrastructure to each premise via Fibre to the Node had blown out from $600 to about $1600 per premise.
In response to questions posed by Labor about the leaked document in Senate Question Time today, Fifield initially read out a statement made by the NBN company this afternoon stating that it “refuted the accuracy of claims made in today’s media” about its FTTN rollout.
“Senator Bilyk, I appreciate the opportunity to provide comfort and reassurance that you don’t need to be worried about the mischaracterisation of that document in the newspaper today,” Fifield told Labor Senator Catryna Bilkyk in response to her question on the NBN FTTN issue.
Fifield followed up by claiming that the NBN document leaked this morning was “an early draft — an internal planning document”. He noted that the details contained in the document were “commercial in confidence” and that the final numbers concerned “may vary”.
Fifield said the NBN Strategic Review which the Coalition carried out in November 2013 — and which the document leaked today shows got its estimates on the FTTN network wrong — had used “the best available information at the time”. The NBN company now had real-world information about its operation and could update its projections, he said.
The Communications Minister then segued into an attack on the performance of the previous Labor Government with respect to the NBN, stating that the project inherited by the Coalition was “a trainwreck” instituted by then-Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.
“We will deliver the NBN quicker and at lower cost than those opposite would have,” Fifled said, claiming that the Coalition Government and the management of the NBN company had a “clear-eyed view of the NBN”.
“Senator Conroy in contrast, sought to create a culture of fear and denial,” Fifield said. “This govt is being upfront and transparent. Senator Conroy only wanted to hear good news, which did not reflect the reality of the NBN organisation.”
Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting