Transcript - Doorstop interview, Cairns

September 4, 2015
Transcripts

Subjects: NBN in Cairns.

E&OE……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
Well what we’ve just seen is the connection of the NBN to this house here and we’ve seen the connection of the lead-in pulled in from the distribution cable in the pit. And so now once the resident of this house wants to be hooked up to the NBN they will call their service provider and they’ll then take the cable into the house, hook it up to a termination device there, and they’ll be hooked up to the National Broadband Network.

QUESTION:
Is this the second stage of rolling out in Cairns?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
Well there are currently about 15000 premises where the NBN is available in Cairns, there’s another five, six thousand under construction like this and shortly construction there will be will be construction will commence in the northern part of the city for another, in areas covering another 47000 premises. So Cairns is powering ahead in terms of NBN construction. I know there have been some problems in the past but the company is now under new management and has been for some time now and we’re getting over those problems and getting cracking as you’ve seen today.

QUESTION:
Where about have we already got NBN and where is the new stage of like the next rollout?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
Well the new stage of the rollout is to the north. The construction started around the Esplanade, as you know in the centre, and now it’s going to move to the north of the city.

QUESTION:
NBN is looking at a $15 billion blowout in terms of the budget. How will that effect the rollout here in Far North Queensland?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
Well let me just correct you there that’s actually not quite right. We inherited this project from the Labor and it was inherited in a terrible mess. And frankly they didn’t know how much it was going to cost; they didn’t know how long it was going to take. We have only recently been able to get accurate figures from the company which identify what the peak funding will be, which has been estimated to be between $46 and $56 billion and company’s base case is $49 billion. And their forecast is to have it all complete by 2020. If they’d stuck with Labor’s approach, it would have cost another $30 billion and taken another six to eight years. So we’re taking the right approach to it but truthfully it is only in recent months that we have got figures from the NBN that you can rely on. It was a really troubled project.

QUESTION:
Is there a gap in funding and how are we going to make it up?

MLCOLM TURNBULL:
No the project is fully funded. There will be $29.5 billion of government equity and the rest will be funded by debt. But we’ve, the company I should say, has published its full corporate plan that sets how it’s able to finance that and cover, carry that.

QUESTION:
Is this rollout on time up in the North, like are people been waiting a while, are you happy with where it’s at and when’s it finished?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
Well Warren and I would love it to be all done last year but it is a gigantic project and you can see the work that is being done here today, this has got to happen, ultimately; these connections have got to happen in millions of premises. Ultimately there will be about 12 million premises across Australia connected to the NBN. Now not all of them, obviously most of them won’t be fibre to the node; fibre the premises I should say, but it is an enormous job, so it’s very, very labour intensive and takes time. The project had passed two per cent of the footprint after six years of Labor, it’s now at around 12 per cent, by 2018 it will have done three quarters, by 2020 it will be finished. It has really accelerated and it is a very big job and what we inherited was a project that had failed basically.

QUESTION:
Minister with the future rollout up here in Cairns is the construction going to be different, so it’s fibre to the node and then it’s copper to the house from there, is that correct?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
That’s right.

QUESTION:
So are they the old Telstra copper wires that will be used?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
Yes they are, they are the existing; the way fibre to the node works is that you bring the fibre to the telecom pillar on a street corner, you install some new electronics there, and then you hook that in to the copper that runs from there to peoples’ premises. Where those old copper lines, as you say, need to be remediated, fixed up, bridge taps removed and so forth, all of that is done; there’s a very big budget for remediation. The reason that is faster and much less expensive, of course, there is so much less work. The problem with Labor’s approach of doing every premises like this with fibre to the premises is you could be waiting till 2028 to finish. Now what Warren and I get all around the country is people saying, “when am I going to get it, I want it now, I want it tomorrow. Why did the fellow on the other side of the town get it and I haven’t?” So people are chasing us for time.

QUESTION:
Isn’t there a risk though that those copper, that technology could become outdated and the copper could obviously rust and become faulty?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
Well any linear network has to be maintained; it doesn’t matter whether it’s, if you run a (inaudible) through a fibre optic cable it’ll be cut just as much as if you run it through a copper cable.

QUESTION:
So is it still going to be reliable and fast and everything like that just because of the wire?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
The speeds that we’re getting on the fibre to the node that is installed now, at 500 metres of copper, which is, most premises are much closer than that to the pillar but at 500 metres we’re getting close to 100mbps down and close to 40mbps up, so they’re very high speed. As I was saying earlier today, close to 80 per cent of the customers on NBN, and there’s over half a million now so it’s a pretty big sample; most of them are ordering products with speeds of 25mbps or less.

QUESTION:
How much has this second rollout costing?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
Well the whole project, in peak funding terms, the project will cost $49 billion, that’s their target, but because there are so many risks, you see this is a very …

QUESTION:
… In Cairns, that’s right. Sorry I want to know how much this second stage is being spent in Cairns in this area.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
I can’t give you a specific figure in Cairns, maybe Amber from the NBN Co. can but I can’t give you a specific dollar amount for the fibre to the node rollout. We could probably calculate it for you and give you an estimate.

QUESTION:
So far the rollout has focused on residential properties like the one we saw here today. The meeting today was with local business leaders. Do you have any plans to kind of refocus on businesses to kind of get more on board especially in regional areas.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
The company has been asked to prioritise underserved areas wherever they can because plenty of people in Australia have got good broadband already. So to prioritise under-served areas and they’re doing that and also to prioritise business areas, so business districts, business parks and so forth. And they are building that into their planning but you can’t, in a linear network like this, you’ve got to work in a contiguous way with a contiguous work front, you can’t just do a little bit here and a little bit there. You’ve got to build your teams up. It’s like rolling out a carpet. You’ve got to do it one bit of carpet after another, so imagine you’re carpeting a room. It’s got to move in a contiguous way.

WARREN ENTSCH:
And that’s happening already on Mulgrove Road, there’s already been quite a significant rollout there. And the next rollout will be on the other side of Mulgrove Road as they continue which is of course primarily all businesses. So that’s happening…

QUESTION:
Warren, where have we already got the NBN and then where is this including? I mean obviously Whitfield but just which suburbs and which residents are benefiting?

WARREN ENTSCH:
There’s quite a few of the inner city ones in around Parramatta Park and those areas in there. A lot of those have already been rolled out. Some of those are actually connecting next month. It’s being switched on so any of those inner city ones around Portsmouth, Parramatta Park those areas there, Bungalow, those areas there. Now we’re moving out into the suburbs, moving north up towards the northern beaches as well. The great thing about what is happening now and what didn’t happen in the past was that we used to get announcements almost on a monthly basis that we were rolling out new NBN connections and you’re sitting there and two years later nothing has happened because they haven’t even started. At least now, when we say NBN is coming to your suburb, have a look around, NBN Vehicles across the street, they’re actually physically doing things. And that’s the big difference that was happening in the past with Cairns. We were waiting for a couple of years all in anticipation of this happening and there wasn’t even a vehicle in the street let along somebody working in the trenches. That has changed dramatically.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
Now, this is Amber Dawnbush from the NBN Co do you want to ask Amber some questions about the rollout?

QUESTION:
I just have a question [Indistinct]

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Rghto, sorry, sorry about that! Warren has a particularly handsome profile!

QUESTION:
Sorry, I’ve got a question off track. I’ve got a Canberra reporter who just wants to know. Tony Abbott made a statement today comparing Islamic State to the Nazis. I just want to hear your response.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
Well the Daesh…

QUESTION:
He’s saying it’s worse than.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
Well I’ll leave him to do the historical comparisons. The critical priority for Australia and all our allies both in the Middle East and our global allies like the United States and Britain and so forth, is to defeat the ISIS terrorist organisation in the field and obviously also to ensure that we are taking care to protect our security from them here in Australia. But the top priority is to defeat them in the field and as you know the Australian Defence Force is working with our allies in Iraq and the contemplation is being considered to move our theatre of operations into Syria as well.

QUESTION:
Do you agree with the statement?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
Look I will leave the historical comparisons to him, I am just focussed on the here and now.

QUESTION:
Can I just go back to the NBN, while it is great that it is being rolled out here in Cairns, there are a lot of remote communities in far north Queensland that have really substandard access to the internet, let alone the NBN. What is the Government going to do to support these communities?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
Well 93 per cent of Australia, Australian people I mean - the population - is being covered by fixed line connections of one kind or another. About four per cent will be covered by fixed wireless which is a very good product and it's a line of site product. The more remote communities, three per cent, will be dealt with by the satellite. The first satellite will be launched on the 1st of October and we expect it to be operational in the first half of next year. And that will deliver a 25 meg down, 5 meg up service and that will pick up anyone not covered by the fixed line or fixed wireless services, so everyone in Australia will get access to the NBN one way or another.

QUESTION:
Do you know which communities they will be? [Indistinct]

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
Any of the very remote communities are almost certainly going to be covered by the satellite rather than any other technologies.

WARREN ENTSCH:
All the [indistinct]Torres Strait, although you will get it on Thursday Island as well but you will get a tower there [indistinct]. Some of your remote communities, Indigenous communities in Cape York, although some of the bigger communities will be getting a tower as well. Where there are Telstra towers there will be an opportunity also for fixed wireless services as well and you will get reasonable or similar coverage. One of the other things we did in coming into Government, we realised that with the NBN, the previous mob in engineering their towers had not given any consideration to multi-using of those towers that allows it to fit other communication equipment like mobile phones on. So what we have done is we have re-engineered these towers so they can be multi-use. That reduces significantly the cost of infrastructure into these remote areas but provides an opportunity for a much broader range of services. So these are the sort of things happening now. When that satellite goes up on the 1st October that will herald a very big change in the most remote of our areas in relation to access [indistinct].

QUESTION:
So in the first half of 2016 these communities will have ...

WARREN ENTSCH:
In the first half of 2016 when it switches on.

WARREN ENTCSH :
In the early part of 2016 when it switches on and the other thing is that's not the end of it because then there's another satellite going up to make sure that we got maximum capacity so that there's none of this business like we've all faced with where they had before they even started doing it the satellite had reached saturated capacity, did not have the ability to provide the services even though they promised them and it does take a bit of time to launch it, construct and launch a satellite but we're not doing one just to meet the immediate needs but we're actually doing two so that we meet future needs as well.

QUESTION:
Mr Turnbull, just on a different subject. Do laws covering media organisations in this country need to be overhauled by the government?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
Well there's, its certainly, the fact is that many of the media ownership laws date back to the pre internet era and are clearly out of date, but as you know and this includes the so called reach rule and the 2 out of 3 rule are the, as you know as the prime minister said he wants there to be consensus i.e. consensually unanimous agreement between all the media companies before he would support any change to the laws and that unanimity is not present.

QUESTION:
Are you concerned that regional hubs aren't getting a fair go under these rules?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
I am very concerned about the economics of regional television, commercial regional television and I'm very concerned as I'm sure Warren is, that there remains strong regional news coverage and that of course is dependent on those businesses being strong financially in every way because news is expensive.

QUESTION:
If you were PM would you change the rules?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
(laughs) I can't answer that for you I think we'll just focus on the Prime Minister as Mr Abbott and he stated what his policy is.

WARREN ENTCSH:
We fought very hard years ago when we started to lose regional television when they were exiting Cairns. This was when Richard Alston was the minister we actually changed the rules in Cairns here, to bring television news back into regional Australia, and we want to make sure that we keep regional news in our region.

QUESTION:
We literally seeing news bureaus close down in QLD and NSW because of these rules. Is that concerning? How do we stop that?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
There is an argument put by the seven network that to the effect that these very old laws don't in fact contribute to the problems that regional broadcasters say that contribute to. There is an argument about that, but there is no doubt that the economics of the commercial television industry is getting tougher and is particularly tough outside of the big cities because if you are a regional broadcaster you have relatively little control over your cost base because the biggest part of your cost is what you pay to the metropolitan network for your programming that comes from them.  And then you've got a big transmission and distribution expense because you've got so many markets to cover and then the only part of your cost base that you really control is your own content which is mostly news and of course sales and marketing and so forth. So when they get squeezed that's why news tends to get caught and I'm very concerned about that and I've just repeated what the Prime Minister has said about it. Those rules there's no question, it doesn't matter what view you take of the merits, it doesn't matter who you are, no one can argue with those rules are not thoroughly out of date in 2015, I mean these are literally, pre internet and actually pre subscription television so they're pre Foxtel.

QUESTION:
As the Minister of Communications you can't change that?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
Well the governments got to make a collective decision you know.

WARREN ENTCSH:
And it can't be pieced with, you got to look at the whole and know that some of the networks argue and looking at one element or another, I think if you're going to be doing it you do the whole lot. Otherwise it's just going to create more problems.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:
Okay, thanks a lot.

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