The Abbott Government would welcome more comprehensive coverage of the progress of the National Broadband Network rollout by the ABC, including a high level of diligence in holding the Government to account.
Senator for South Australia Anne Ruston, chairing Environment and Communications Budget Estimates hearings today, said she was stunned by a bizarre appearance by former Labor communications minister Stephen Conroy this morning.
"I’ve previously witnessed some bizarre performances in Senate committees from Senator Conroy but this one topped them all," Senator Ruston said.
"Senator Conroy, who as a Labor minister oversaw his government’s disastrous management of the NBN, today interrogated ABC managing director Mark Scott about why the ABC’s promise tracker wasn’t telling him what he wanted to hear – that the Coalition had ‘broken’ its pre-election commitments regarding the NBN.
"Of course, he conveniently neglected to mention the appalling, catastrophic disaster that was the NBN he left for the incoming Coalition Government to repair."
Senator Ruston said quarterly results figures released today showed the Government’s early successes in reforming the NBN.
"We’re rolling out the network faster and we’re earning more revenue," she said. "As of the end of March 2015, an average of about 12,300 premises were made serviceable each week – an increase of 73% on the 12-week rolling average for the same period last year – while telecoms revenue in the financial year to date was $106 million – three times last year’s corresponding figure.
"Thanks to the Coalition Government, the NBN is now available to 913,000 premises in Australia with work underway covering another 725,000.
"Senator Conroy and Labor claimed the NBN would pass almost a million premises by June 2013, however it only passed 165,000.
"Senator Conroy and Labor claimed the rollout would be complete by 2018, and then revised this to 2021. The strategic review showed Labor would not complete the NBN until 2025.
"Senator Conroy and Labor claimed it would only cost $26 billion, however the strategic review showed Senator Conroy’s NBN would cost $73 billion.
"Senator Conroy also consistently exaggerated the progress of the NBN rollout, claiming premises were being passed when work had not even begun.
"Regional Australia in particular was a victim of Senator Conroy’s management of the NBN. Labor’s eligibility criteria for satellite broadband resulted in the NBN interim satellite service being badly oversubscribed, with users subsequently experiencing speeds similar to dial-up or even worse.
"The Coalition Government is meanwhile prioritising regional Australia in the NBN rollout.
"In my own state of South Australia, construction will start on an additional 20,000 regional premises by September 2016. Work is already underway in Port Augusta, and will begin in Murray Bridge in the coming months. Fixed wireless services are now available across large areas of regional South Australia.
"We have also been forced to purchase additional satellite bandwidth to alleviate Senator Conroy’s interim satellite debacle – for an additional $34 million. It’s a good example of the additional expenses the taxpayer is being forced to pick up to fix Senator Conroy’s legacy.
"The Government welcomes the scrutiny of the ABC and all other media regarding its management of the NBN, and will put its record on the NBN up against Senator Conroy’s any day.