The Shadow Minister for Communications has asked Malcolm Turnbull the question many have been thinking: “What are you hiding from the Australian people about the HFC network? What have you been hiding?”
The question comes following the announcement from NBN HFC rollout has been “paused” – effective immediately – while work is carried out on existing connections.
“This announcement raises more questions than answers,” Michelle Rowland said in a statement at Parliament House, 1:45pm AEDT today.
“Is NBN seriously telling the Australian taxpayer they have been deploying a HFC network that is not fit for purpose?” Rowland asked adding that the HFC “debacle” is “unravelling before our very eyes.”
The Prime Minister is yet to comment.
Here’s the full transcript of Rowland’s statement today:
The latest spin we have from the NBN could be matched by Shane Warne. This spin today is supposedly about the NBN improving the customer experience and taking it to new levels. Translate that to what it really is, and the reality is this: Malcolm Turnbull’s multi-technology mix has well and truly failed.
Today, we find out that the HFC component of his network, the pay TV network, will actually now be stopping taking orders and there will be a delay of between six and nine months. That’s new customers coming on: six to nine months delay! And let’s remember, this is a network that Malcolm Turnbull promised would be finished to every Australian by the end of 2016. We are only weeks away from 2018 and now these customers are being told they’re going to have a further delay of between six and nine months. So what does that say about Malcolm Turnbull? He’s the first to lecture everyone on engineering and economics. He’s the one who said that the HFC network would be a huge game changer. He’s the one who said, and here’s just one example of many bon mots: “Amazing what you can do with HFC! That’s the technology NBN is paying billions to decommission and overbuild.” That was in January 2012. Well, we know now that NBN, that this government, that this Prime Minister, is too scared to be rolling out HFC because it’s not working. And they’re too scared because they know that the predominant technology being used for the NBN in Bennelong is actually HFC.
We have seen a 160% increase in complaints. We have seen complaints ranging from everything from not getting speeds that were ordered to continuous service dissatisfaction. And all this government has to offer, all Malcolm Turnbull can do for the Australian people, is offer more spin. It is time for him to fess up that his multi-technology mix has failed, that his HFC experiment is a dud, that it is the consumers of Australia, Australian taxpayers, who are paying the price for his complete ineptitude; for this debacle of an NBN. And if he was in any doubt about how important this issue is for Australians and how over everyone is of all his spin, he need only speak to people in Bennelong. Ask them how they are feeling; ask them what they think of having further delays in terms of being connected when they were promised connections by the end of 2016.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe NBNCo when they say that this won’t affect the scheduled rollout to 8 million premises by 2020?
ROWLAND: There is so much information that we don’t know. There is such a lack of transparency in what is going on with this project that it’s impossible for me to be able to answer, but I do know this: I know this government is hiding something. There is a reason why this announcement was made today. We actually had a spill-over estimates hearing late last week. This was not mentioned. You would’ve thought that this was something that was being contemplated for some time, that this was an important piece of information that NBNCo might want to share with the Senate, but no; something very serious is being hidden from the Australian people here. There are more questions than answers at the moment.
JOURNALIST: Surely it’s a good idea to fix the problem now before these homes are actually connected though?
ROWLAND: Well, hang on a minute. This was supposed to be the game-changing technology. This was supposed to be future-proofing technology that would save four years and $30 billion by switching to the multi-technology mix. It has utterly failed. Every time Malcolm Turnbull stands up and lectures everyone else about engineering and economics just remember that. Just remember that he was the one who championed this dud of a network, who was happy to lecture anyone and everyone about how fantastic HFC was. And now we have this latest announcement.
JOURNALIST: If people are remaining with their existing provider on HFC, does it actually really affect them in real terms in the short term?
ROWLAND: Well, interesting you should ask that because the number of people whom I listen to at community forums right around Australia say, “Look, we had a perfectly working service, either on ADSL or on HFC, prior to being switched to the NBN”. Their problems start when they get switched over to the NBN. Once upon a time Australians were saying, “When am I going to get the NBN? I’m so excited.” I tell you what they’re saying now: “Please don’t switch me over to the NBN.” We’re almost in 2018. What does that say for a country when we have people actually not wanting to be switched over to the NBN? What does that say about this Prime Minister and his complete ineptitude? What does that say about his lack of leadership, vision and foresight? And what does that say about all his posturing about how fantastic he was – this guy who supposedly invented the internet, and this is what he has left us with today at the end of November 2017. It’s an utter disgrace.
JOURNALIST: Do you think there will be another cost blowout in terms of fixing this problem now?
ROWLAND: Again, who knows? The processes and the mechanisms that we’ve seen so far, including today’s announcement, are so opaque that it’s anyone’s guess. But again, this Prime Minister was the person who promised there would be transparency. He promised faster delivery, he promised it would be cheaper. He failed on every single count when it comes to the NBN.