Transcript: NBN ‘Shoot for the Stars’ Competition

August 13, 2015
Transcripts

TRANSCRIPT OF THE MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS

THE HON MALCOLM TURNBULL MP

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, CANBERRA

Subjects: nbn satellite; marriage equality debate.

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

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

It’s great to be here at Questacon with the winners of the NBN Co’s drawing competition to accompany the launch of the first of our long term satellites, which will be on the 1st of October Australian time in 50 days; and here are the winners, all the State and Territory winners have done a fantastic job, and each of them has got a satellite in their hand, but I have to tell you the real one is somewhat bigger, isn’t it kids? It’s actually the size of a bus or a large African elephant; it’s about six and a half tonnes so it’s quite a lot to throw up into the air. And what the satellite is going to do is totally transform broadband for people in regional and remote Australia. There will be over 200,000 premises, homes and businesses, some like Bailey Brooks; Bailey I don’t want to single you out but come out. Bailey comes from the Northern Territory, she lives six hours drive from Alice Springs, you do your schooling over the air, don’t you? And you did a fantastic drawing, you’re the national winner, and your drawing is going to be on the side of the rocket isn’t it? So just tell us a little bit about your drawing …

Well it’s a great, it’s a great, Bailey’s experience and all of the other kids experience is going to be so improved because the satellite will deliver 25 Mbps download, 5 Mbps upload; this is over 30 times the speed that most people are able to get in regional and remote Australia on satellite; so launching on the 1st of October your drawing is going into space, Bailey, and then a few months later, early next year, the long term satellite will be commercially available, so are you excited about that?

Now, the other thing that Bailey did because she won the drawing competition, her class, her online class, distance education class, were the ones that chose the name for the satellite … Sky Muster … Isn’t that a great name? Tell us why you called it Sky Muster?

BAILEY BROOKS:

Because it’s an outback name …

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

And it’s up in the sky, and it’s mustering all of the knowledge of the world and making it available to you. You’re a star, you’re all stars. Congratulations guys. This has been such an important step forward. Can I tell you, broadband is important everywhere. And it’s important for people in the cities; it’s important for people in Canberra and Sydney, but it is nowhere more important than it is for kids like Bailey who live so far from schools, from towns, and traditionally have been, historically have been at enormous disadvantage because of isolation, and through the wonder of this technology that’s going to be changed forever, so Bailey well done.

BAILEY BROOKS:

Thank you.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Let’s hear it for Bailey and for the other winners. Congratulations guys you’ve all done so well. So, well that’s great, now do you have any other questions? Julia Dickinson who is the, you stay there in the middle if you like. Julia Dickinson who is the satellite systems manager from NBN Co is here if you’ve got some other questions about the satellite. Happy to take some questions.

QUESTION:

Can you tell us which communities in remote WA are going to be hooked up from the 1st of October?

JULIA DICKINSON:

Well the dates of the satellite hook ups won’t be until several months after the launch. So once we launch the satellites we need to test out the satellites themselves and then we have to test out the ground systems and the IT systems for the end to end service. So several months after the launch and then all of the remote communities will have access to the service but we’ll just have to roll out the ground system at each person’s house.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

The way that the scheme of the NBN is that most Australians, 93 per cent, will get their broadband NBN service over a fixed line. So that’s fibre to the premises, HFC, fibre to the basement, fibre to the node, that will be the solution for almost, for most of us. Then there’s another percentage, say around 4 percent who are being serviced by what’s called fixed wireless and they are typically people who live on the outskirts of towns and that is the fixed wireless, it is a very high quality service 50 mbps down 10 megs up its proved, rolling out very rapidly and its proving to be very popular and successful. But then you have people in very remote locations like Bailey and the option there is the satellite. So what the satellite service does, and we will have two of them, it enables us to ensure that everybody can get a service no matter where they are in Australia. So that’s how the network all fits together.

QUESTION:

It’s taken quite a long time to get access to these remote and regional communities – why has it taken so long?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well the satellite is a non-trivial piece of infrastructure and Julia has been cracking the whip over the people at Space Systems Loral to build it but it’s a big job and it will be launched as I said on the 1st of October so that’s the time it takes to build a satellite. It is literally a marvel of science. A scientific marvel, a satellite service.

QUESTION:

Mr Turnbull, do you see any advantage of changing the Constitution at a referendum to recognise same-sex marriage or is that just an elaborate way of trying to kill this issue off given the high threshold?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Right, okay, well I had a horrible feeling that we wouldn’t be talking about science and the NBN. Okay let me, look, there’s been a lot said recently, you’ve had people speculating about different ways of dealing with the same-sex marriage issue and I think we’re now at a point where there’s considerable confusion. So let me try and deal with that. Just bear with me.

There are basically two ways to deal with the question of marriage equality prior to the next election, over the next twelve months. One was to have a free vote in the Parliament so the Parliament would consider a Bill and it would either be passed or not passed depending if you like on the individual consciences of the Members. Now the party room meeting earlier this week concluded that there would not be a free vote in the Coalition and so therefore there is no prospect of such a Bill being passed and I suspect it won’t even be presented, so that option is no longer available. Now another way of dealing with it would be to have, to go to the people. As Tony Abbott said ask the people not the politicians. So you could do that, you could have a plebiscite before the next election and that would have, would distract a lot from people talking about other things naturally, but it is a very important issue and it would be dealt with before the election. How would you do that? Well I think you would have to - recognising a plebiscite would just be a piece of advice from the public, important - what I think you would need to do is pass a Bill which legalised same-sex marriage, to go through the legislative process, and then have a provision in the bill which said it is not going to be law until a majority of Australians have voted in favour of it at a plebiscite. And that would at least deal with the issue one way or another before the next election. And that means – that would then mean that the same sex marriage issue would not be an issue at the election.

If on the other hand you were – you wanted to have this issue as an issue at the next election, it’s a very contentious issue, then the approach would be to have a plebiscite after the next election. And that is one of the options which is being canvassed by Ministers and by the Prime Minister. So you would presumably have the same approach if it was a plebiscite, but it would happen after the next election. There would obviously then be – this would be a very, this would be a red hot issue at the election.

QUESTION:

How do you feel…?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Now if I can just, can I just finish, sorry just on the question. As to the constitution, the constitution is our fundamental law. You would not – no one would contemplate putting a whole piece of legislation relating to marriage, detailed legislation about marriage or anything else, in the constitution. So, a number of my Ministerial colleagues have suggested that you could amend the constitution which enables the federal parliament to legislate about marriage to say ‘and marriage shall include marriage between people of the same sex, men and men, women and women’. Now I don’t think there is any doubt that parliament has the power to legislate now, but if you wanted to you could put that in to the constitution, that would require a national majority, and a majority in four out of six states. It would – but it would not conclude the matter because parliament would then have to legislate, it would still have to have detailed amendments to the Marriage Act. So a constitutional amendment would only be one step. And of course, and this is a very important thing to bear in mind – even if an overwhelming majority of Australians were in favour of same sex marriage, even if you had a referendum and 80 per cent voted yes, I don’t think you’d ever get a majority like that, but let’s say you did, there will still be members of Parliament who in good conscience will say because of my, or their, religious beliefs I cannot vote in favour of same sex marriage. So a constitutional change, in other words, would not determine the issue. A plebiscite that was in effect the triggering factor for a bill, clearly would.

QUESTION:

So you would like to see a plebiscite this side of the election?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, look, again, we’re in a sort of unusual situation where this, this is probably quite liberating perhaps, where this issue is being discussed by Ministers en plein air, literally en plein air, in the open. Everyone’s expressing different views. I, my own view, is simply this, same sex marriage is a very, very important issue. It is a – it’s an important issue for the proponents and the opponents – it needs to be taken seriously. I agree with all of that. However there are a lot of other issues, really issues of economic management, national security, digital transformation, management of the national broadband network – there are a whole lot of other issues that we, in the Liberal Party, certainly believe should be the issues at the election. Who do you trust to manage the economy? That’s going to be a very key issue. Now the, my own view, and it’s just a personal view, is I would rather not have the election campaign with a co-extensive, simultaneous debate about same sex marriage going on at the same time. Obviously the Labor Party really wants that to happen, they want nothing more than that. Because they think the issue works for them. So, my own view is that it would be good if the matter was dealt with before the election. But you know time will tell, I hope that at some point we’ll have a, we’ll have to flesh this out in the Cabinet and come to a finding.

QUESTION:

Can you deny right here that this is not just a killing off measure? Everything that’s happened over this week, just to kill off the issue completely?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I really don’t want to buy into that. It is a, at this stage the Government does not have a policy on a plebiscite or a referendum. I mean the Prime Minister has said that he has, and he believes the party has, a disposition to give the people their say on this and that can be done in a variety of ways and we’ve seen a variety of models presented. I hope what I have said today has clarified the context and the different consequences of different proposals. I’m not trying to argue for one thing or another, I’m really more concerned that I can do a little bit to end the confusion.

QUESTION:

Dyson Heydon who as you know is overseeing the Royal Commission into Trade Union Corruption is apparently a speaker at a Liberal fundraiser in two weeks, is that appropriate?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well look I can’t comment, I really don’t know enough about that. I heard a mention of that on the way out here, I can’t make any comment on that I’m afraid to say. You should talk to the Attorney General. No doubt as the facts become plain people will form a view. Now thank you very much indeed.

QUESTION:

Can I ask you a question about NBN if that’s okay?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

NBN! We’re back to the NBN yes! Yes! As many questions on the NBN as you like.

QUESTION:

Now you announced today that launch date is October 1, but services won’t be available until early next year. Why that long period until service is available?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Oh well because the satellite, where’s Julia? Come back Julia please. Julia, as Julia can elaborate the satellite has to firstly it’s got to get into position and then we’ve got to make sure, well why don’t you explain what needs to be done? First thing, launch your satellite, what happens next?

JULIA DICKINSON:

What happens next is we have to, the satellite bring itself up into its final location with several manoeuvres which takes a couple of weeks. Then we spend a couple of months testing out the satellite, it’s a very complex piece of equipment. So we have to test it out from end-to-end to make sure everything is going to work the way it did on the ground. The launch environment is pretty stressful for a satellite.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

And what about the systems manager for the satellite? Is it stressful for her too?

JULIA DICKINSON:

No [inaudible]. Yeah I’ll be watching very closely as we test it out and then we test the ground stations. We have ten brand new ground stations that have been built for this project as well in parallel with the satellite and all the IT systems and the transit. A complex system that has to go together. And we need to make sure that is all going to work as well. And they have all been tested in parallel now but then when the satellite is in orbit we have to test the whole thing, end to end, from our retail service providers all the way down to the individual equipment at people’s houses – the small antennas on their roof. So it is a large, a huge project and we really have to make sure that we get it right before we turn the services on. So that is why it takes so long, but we are doing everything as fast as we possibly can, so anything that is in our control we are doing it fast.

QUESTION:

Mr Turnbull can I ask one final question? 

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Only if it is on the NBN.

QUESTION:

It’s on same sex marriage. You mentioned the bill – you didn’t think it was going to come before the Parliament. Can I ask…? 

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I don’t know, it may well do so, that’s a matter for the selection committee.

QUESTION:

If it does I just wanted to clarify, you will vote according to the official party position, you won’t cross the floor?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I have made it very clear before, actually before the last election, that I favoured a free vote, if there was a free vote I would vote in favour. But it also follows if there is not a free vote I will, as a member of the Cabinet, vote in accordance with the Government’s position. Okay, thanks very much.

QUESTION: 

Do you think that Twitter and social media companies like that are doing enough…? 

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Okay just one more, this has really got to be it.

QUESTION: 

Do you think that companies like Twitter are doing enough to stop ISIL using it as a propaganda tool? 

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

That is a big question. We talk to them a lot, the Government engages with them a lot. I was discussing this issue with Julie Inman Grant who is the Australian head of Twitter just last weekend at a conference – the Australian American Leadership Dialogue conference. It is a very key issue, as I said recently in a speech I gave to the Sydney Institute we have got to be very careful and there are obviously big issues about freedom of speech and news reporting and all that. We have just got to be very careful and thoughtful and ensure that we don’t amplify the terrorists’ propaganda. That’s a longer topic perhaps for another day.

 

ends

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