news Malcolm Turnbull yesterday accused the Opposition of ‘fooling itself’ with relation to significant delays revealed in the rollout of the Prime Minister’s preferred Fibre to the Node technology, in a fraught Question Time in which Labor pursued Turnbull relentlessly on the National Broadband Network issue.
However, the Prime Minister did not respond directly to documents leaked this week which show the NBN company’s FTTN rollout is significant behind target.
Over the weekend, the Sydney Morning Herald published an article about an internal NBN company document, entitled ‘Scale the Deployment Program: FTTx Design and Construction’. Delimiter yesterday published the document in question here in PDF format. It appears to have been authored by the NBN company’s chief network engineering officer Peter Ryan.
The document notes that the NBN company had at 19 February this year only successfully completed construction of its Fibre to the Node network to some 29,005 premises — far short of its target of 94,273 for that date. The report pins much of the delays on issues with electricity companies, which appear to be having problems getting power to the neighbourhood ‘nodes’ used in a FTTN rollout.
Labor’s previous near-universal Fibre to the Premises rollout for the NBN would not have suffered the same problems, as it does not rely on electrical power to neighbourhood ‘nodes’.
Yesterday in Question Time, the Opposition pursued Turnbull relentlessly on the issue. As Communications Minister, Turnbull initiated the FTTN rollout in the NBN.
Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare asked Turnbull, amid other NBN questions: “Before the last election the Prime Minister promised to deliver the NBN to all Australians by the end of this year. However, internal documents leaked to The Sydney Morning Herald today reveal the Prime Minister’s second rate copper NBN is in crisis and has failed to meet even a third of its internal rollout target. Will the Prime Minister finally accept responsibility for the mess and the chaos he has done to the NBN?”
In response, Turnbull several times deferred questions to former Optus executive and Minister for Major Projects, Territories and Local Government Paul Fletcher, who regularly oversees NBN-related issues in the House of Representatives for Turnbull.
However, following a question from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Turnbull eventually did respond directly to the FTTN issue (video above).
“Does the Prime Minister take responsibility for the fact that his NBN is actually slow, expensive and late?” asked Shorten.
In response, Turnbull said Shorten could “fool himself” with respect to the NBN. “We are living in the real world, and the NBN is getting on with the job,” he said.
Turnbull said the Opposition lived in a “parallel universe” when it came to the NBN.
“The NBN publishes its rollout figures every week,” the Prime Minister said. “In the last week, for example, it was reported to 18 February that 26,524 additional premises were covered by the network. Of those, about 14,000 additional connections were made.”
“The NBN is rolling out, as I said earlier. We have activated serviceable premises 10 times greater than the number we inherited at the election. The fact is that the NBN under its new management is meeting its targets. It will have services available in one in four Australian premises by 30 June and it estimates that two years after that, in 2018, we will have services available in three out of four premises.”
Turnbull said the Coalition’s controversial Multi-Technology Mix model for the NBN would see the project finish six to eight years sooner and about $30 billion less in terms of costs.
“The Leader of the Opposition referred to copper, by which I assume he was referring to the fibre–to-the-node hybrid technology which is being used. The chief executive of the NBN, Mr Morrow, announced on 5 February that they had surveyed NBN users’ satisfaction for the various technologies and found that the satisfaction for customers using fibre to the premises and fibre to the nodes was at exactly the same level.”
“The facts speak for themselves. The Leader of the Opposition can fool himself. We are living in the real world, and the nbn is getting on with the job.”
However, at no stage during the responses by either Fletcher or Turnbull did the two Ministers respond directly to the leaked documents from the NBN company.
Opinion/analysis to follow.