Transcript - Sky News First Edition - 10 April 2013

April 10, 2013
Communications & Broadband
Transcripts

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP

INTERVIEW WITH KIERAN GILBERT

SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION

Subjects: National Broadband Network, Rural Broadband Prices

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KIERAN GILBERT:

First though to the Broadband debate and I’m joined by the Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull from Sydney, Malcolm thanks so much for your time.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Good Morning.

KIERAN GILBERT:

How will the Coalition decide what areas have fibre to the node and what areas will have fibre all the way to the home?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

It will be based on what is cost effective, so in Greenfield areas, new housing estates, the cost of putting fibre out is not very different from putting out copper so you’d obviously do fibre there.  Areas where there is very high demand, so business areas, institutions, schools, hospitals anywhere there is a commercial demand for it you’d obviously put it there.  You’d put it in some areas of the residential parts of Australia, suburban Australia, where the copper is suffering from endemic water damage where the cost of maintaining it is too high – that’s very much the exception by the way – and that’s basically it.  And also obviously if people wanted to pay for an upgrade for fibre to the premise, fibre on demand is available.

KIERAN GILBERT:

But on the rollout, given where the government would have already rolled out NBN fibre to the home and then under your plan as well you’re going to have haves and have nots side by side, suburb by suburb.  How will that go down politically?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, I think you’ve got to recognise that the issue is not what is the type of access technology you’ve got but what services it delivers and if you have fibre to premises here in say a new estate and you’ve got fibre to the node over here, so long as you can do the same things with your service, as long as you can access the same movies or chat or web browsing or gaming as long as you can do the same things no-body is worse off and that is why you don’t get people rioting in the streets because the suburb next door has HFC and they’re on ADSL2+.  So as long as the services are comparable, and our point simply is that the speeds that will be available under fibre to the node are more than adequate for residential consumers to do the things they want to do and that’s a fact and that’s why telcos around the world – big telcos – BT in Britain, Deutche Telecom in Germany and many others, AT&T in the United States are using this approach, because it’s cost effective and it’s quick.

KIERAN GILBERT:

You talk about the people not having a gripe with the current technologies and disparities and so on but this is a government subsidised program and you’re going to have some with the fibre all the way to the home and others like you’ve said this morning who might have to pay for the upgrade.  There is a disparity.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well there is a disparity but you can take the Labor Party approach and you might ask Penny Wong about this, Labor’s got an ad out there saying connecting to Labor’s NBN is free, free!  So apparently they’re ignoring the fact that it’s going to cost taxpayers $94 billion and they’re ignoring the fact that consumers under Labor’s NBN will be paying at least $300 dollars a year more for their broadband.  So Labor’s desperate and they’ll say anything.  Can I just address one thing though, that’s come up overnight that I think is important to get across?  It’s been suggested that our approach is going to be bad news for regional Australia.  That is absolutely untrue and in fact the reverse is the case –

KIERAN GILBERT:

Let me ask you on that though because the key point on that is that you’re promising a cap on prices not a uniform wholesale price which would basically cross-subsidise regional Australia with a uniform price.  Doesn’t your cap then allow for the market to have that discrepancy between urban and rural areas?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well what we’re doing is allowing competition to come back into the broadband business.  You see what Labor has done and it’s unique in the world in this respect is it’s building a massively expensive government telecom monopoly so it’s turning the whole economic reform clock back several generations and it is –

KIERAN GILBERT:

Well how does that not hurt the bush then if you reverse that?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Because as I said earlier our prices will be significantly lower than Labor’s, at least $300 a year less than Labor’s and we’ve set out why that is the case and if you think about it, use a bit of common sense should play a part here, if you can build a broadband network for $60 billion less than Labor will have to spend obviously your prices are going to be lower.  The ACCC will set a national cap so that’s to say no wholesale provider including the NBN Co will be able to go above that but people will be able –

KIERAN GILBERT:

But those in the bush could be paying more easily under your plan couldn’t they?  As opposed this uniform price under Labor.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I think it is very unlikely that anyone in the bush will be paying more, or materially more than anyone else, there may be some parts of the cities very densely settled areas where there is intense competition and where prices may be lower.  But I honestly think that’s going to be the exception but the difficulty is if you want to allow competition you’ve got to allow some flexibility.  If you say there’s going to be only one price and people can’t charge above or below it then there’s no room for flexibility. What we’ve done is we’ve set a cap so that people in the bush will know that under us they will pay less for their broadband, they’ll get the upgrade sooner, and the cap will be set by the ACCC.  Now can I just make one other point this is really important, there are two other points critical to people in rural Australia.  Under Labor’s plan fibre to the premise will only go to communities or towns with a thousand premises or more.  There’s a lot of county towns with less than one thousand premises.  Under our approach fibre to the node is ideally suited for smaller communities and what that will mean is that many more Australians in regional Australia will get wireline high-speed broadband under us than under Labor.  And the second point I want to make is, is that what Labor has done is fail to recognise that the biggest telecom problem in the bush is lack of mobile phone coverage and what we will do is ensure that the investment in the NBN’s fixed wireless network will enhance and augment mobile phone coverage in the bush. So this is a win win win for regional Australia.

KIERAN GILBERT:

I need to ask you something, I need to ask you though something about the budget handling of this because the Coalition has said that the government was guilty of accounting tricks keeping $37 billion for the NBN out of budget expenses because it was going to be sold and so on, but this is exactly what the Coalition’s going to do now.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well no, the big difference is that the, look, we’re not proposing to change the public sector financial accounting rules but the big difference is this –

KIERAN GIBERT:

After bagging them. After bagging them.

MALCOLM TURNBULLL:

No just hang on.  The point that we were making, at least I’ve been making is this.  I’ve made this point that what the government should be doing is recognising that the amount they’re investing in the NBN Co is substantially more than the value of the asset they are creating and they should book the difference, that’s to say what should be the write down to the budget expenses.  Now, you know that is not the public sector financial accounting rules I might say so the government says we don’t have to do it.  But our approach is going to make it much likely, vastly more likely, naturally, that the government investment in the NBN Co will be equal to the value of the investment of the investment created.

KIERAN GILBERT:

OK. Malcolm Turnbull appreciate your time this morning thanks so much for that.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

OK, thank you.

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