24 February 2014
Andrew asked the Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, how the Government plans to help the people in Tasmania waiting months for the NBN due to delays in the rollout.
Mr WILKIE (Denison) (14:17): My question is to the Minister for Communications. Minister, my office is being contacted almost daily by constituents who are being stuffed around by the NBN rollout in Tasmania. One pressing problem is the large number of individuals and businesses that have had their copper service disconnected but are waiting months for the NBN. Such business people and businesses are in trouble now. What is your plan to fix this mess now?
Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth—Minister for Communications) (14:17): I thank the honourable member for his question. As the honourable member is aware, the rollout of the NBN in Tasmanian essentially stalled in July and very little work was done since then in large part because the contractor Visionstream was not prepared to continue working for the rates it had previously agreed to. Since then the NBN Co. under its new management has had extensive negotiations with Visionstream. Work has resumed already on 17,000 premises and is shortly to begin on another 19,000 premises, all of which are expected to be complete comfortably within this year. So we would, if that occurs and we expect it will, have more premises passed with fibre by the NBN Co. in Tasmania in this year than under six years of the Labor government.
The honourable member is concerned, as we all are, about people who have cancelled their service—for example, their Telstra service—in anticipation of the NBN Co. connecting them at the time that the NBN Co. said they would. So they were told by the NBN Co. ‘we will connect you on such and such a day’ and those people cancelled their Telstra or Optus service. Then the NBN Co. did not turn up on time, missed appointments and so forth, and those people were left in the lurch. This is a real problem. As the honourable member knows, this has been going on for some time. This is not something that has occurred since the election. He asked me what we are doing about it.
We have changed the approach the NBN Co. has to rolling out its network. Previously, it was totally focused on meeting numbers in its corporate plan and passing premises so as to tick that box without regard to whether those premises could actually be activated. That is why there are so many thousands of premises, roughly about a third, which are in so-called service class zero that cannot be connected at all. We are focusing now on activation and the new chief operating officer, Greg Adcock, is very focused on actually delivering what it should. The object is to get people connected, so we are very alert to it. I can give the honourable member an example of some early progress. He will note from the rollout figures we publish every week that the premises passed in Tasmania have not materially increased since July although they will start ramp up now. But the number of premises which are connected, which have a network termination device on the premises has increased by 50 per cent.