The Morning Shift with
Tom Connell & Caroline Marcus
10 July 2017
E & OE
going to move on because the National Broadband Network is finally at the
halfway point of implantation, with the Government marking the job half-done
today in Sydney. It’s now been rolled out past 5.7 million premises. The take
up rate, 2.2 million, so why so low? Joining me live now is
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield. Minster thanks for your time today, why
is it such a low take up so far?
this is a good story Tom, as you mentioned 5.7 million premises nationwide can
now access the nbn, that’s 50 per cent of the nation. At the moment 2.4 million
premises have already taken up that opportunity. The reason for the disparity
is that there’s an 18 month window that people have in which to
migrate to the nbn after it comes down their street. So people want to shop
around, look for the best retail service provider, with the best package, make
a choice, and then they’ll migrate across. nbn is pretty much on target after
that 18 month period, to have about 75 per cent of people migrating to the nbn.
So things are on track.
well fair enough they want to shop around, we’ll see if those figures begin to
match up. This does have a troubled history this project, blowouts under Labor,
I’ll ask you hopefully not into get too much into that, we’ve only got a short
amount of time on the program. Malcolm Turnbull said it would all be done by
2016. I’m interested on what you think, hearing a lot of businesses, and
thoughts of people – has this held back our economy?
look, our objective is to see the nbn rolled out as soon as possible. And
because of the approach we’re taking, it’ll be completed by 2020, which is six
to eight years sooner than would have been the case under our predecessors. The
reason why we decided to depart from the approach of those who came before us
is because Australians want the nbn, and you don’t get the full national
economic benefits of the nbn until the whole country has it. You mentioned 2016
as a date that we mentioned when we were in opposition. When we got into
Government, we found that the nbn was essentially a failed project. Contractors
had downed tools in four states. Despite $6billion being spent over the best
part of two terms only 51,000 people had hooked up to the nbn. So on the best
information available in opposition, we said what we said. When we came into
government, we found that the project was much worse than even we had thought.
But the good news Tom, is that the project is on track, nbn has hit pretty much
every milestone since we’ve been in office and all Australians will have it by
about the words of Peter Ryan, the nbn co.’s Chief Network Engineering Officer,
he says the company is already planning on upgrades beyond 2020, is that
because of fibre-to-the-node rather than fibre-to-the-premise?
no, with a project like this, you’re always looking at upgrade opportunities,
so nbn is pursuing those even now. So in the fixed-wireless network, we thought
50 megabits per second was as good as it could get, nbn have worked out a way
to get that to 100 megabits per secondSo that’s good news. The old pay-tv
cable, HFC network, nbn are already working on ways to up the speeds there.
This is a project that’s not set in concrete. Technology keeps moving and every
telco company is always looking at upgrade paths, and nbn would be remiss if
media reform now, Labor has dug in its heels over two out of three rule. In
particular, that is owning more than two out of three of radio, print,
newspapers. Is there any drawback in getting the rest of it past and continuing
to work on that element?
this is an integrated package, which is supported by the entire media industry,
Tom. Seven, Nine, Ten, Win, Prime, Southern Cross/Austereo, Fairfax, News
Limited, Foxtel, Commercial Radio Australia, Free TV, ASTRA all support this
package. And the reason they do is because there’s something in this package
for all elements of the Australia media industry. The Australian Labor Party
should support this package as a whole. They say they support most elements of
it, but let me just finish Tom, but not two out of three. However, in the House
of Representatives, Labor voted against the package in total. That’s why I’m
engaging in discussions with the Senate crossbench.
are you saying that to past the rest and leave out two out of three, would
what? Give an unfair leg-up to some organisations, is that why you can’t pass
there’s no reason why we should only pass some of it. We should pass the lot of
it. Because all of it is needed. And all of it is supported by the Australian
media industry. Labor are stuck in the past. The two-out-of-three rule was
designed for an era of just print, radio and TV before the internet existed.
Our media laws have got to reflect the world that we live in and we need to
give Australian media companies the capacity to configure themselves in the
ways that best support their viability
and I know you'll keep saying that but I'm just asking if there's any
disadvantage in saying 'right, we'll get that done now and tackle the rest down
the track'. Is there any reason not to apart from the dynamics of one whole
package at a legislative level?
there's no reason not to pursue the package as a whole. If we don't get rid of
two-out-of-three, well, that will be a constraint on the capacity of Australian
media organisations to configure themselves in the way that best supports
their viability. I think we should do whatever we can to help Australian media
organisations. To make sure that we continue to have strong, Australian media
there be a disadvantage though to any one company if you just passed part of
there would be disadvantages to a number of companies because there would
continue to be needless constraints on sections of the Australian media
industry. Now, if we removed the two-out-of-three rule, it's then up to
Australian media organisations as to how they want to configure themselves. It
shouldn't be for me to tell them how to configure themselves. Labor talk about
concerns about diversity, but we will still have a range of important diversity
protections in place.
we'll see how talks go with Labor. Moving onto an issue over the weekend. Dean
Smith is going to push for his private member's bill on same-sex marriage be
considered in the party room. Should there be a free vote on this?
have a clear policy. We took it to the last election and that is that there
should be a plebiscite; a decision by the Australian people on this subject and
then the Parliament would give effect to the will as expressed by the
Australian people. This is something that could have already been done and
dusted. We would've already had a plebiscite take place if the Australian Labor
Party had not blocked the plebiscite bill. And there's no reason why the
Australian Labor Party should've blocked the plebiscite bill, because Bill
Shorten himself previously advocated for a plebiscite on this subject.
definition, there'll be no revisiting yet, there would be, sometime before the
have our policy. It's for a plebiscite. And I think Bill Shorten should pause,
reflect and change his view in relation to the plebiscite.
Bill Shorten has closed in on Malcolm Turnbull's lead. According to the latest
polls. What do attribute that to, and what can the Government do now to turn
I've always made it a practice not to be a commentator on the polls. You're all
very well capable of doing that, as was the media scrum I was in just before.
What I'm doing is focusing on my job which is to see the NBN rolled out
nationwide by 2020.
do you think that Christopher Pyne's comments that had come out, Tony Abbott's
what some people are calling sniping has hurt the party?
my advice to all colleagues is to focus on the task at hand. And when you do
that, you can get some good results. As Manager of Government Business in the
Senate, I can't help but point out that we've got 165 pieces of legislation
through the Parliament since the last election. 36 in the last sitting
fortnight alone. This is a Government that's working. This is a Parliament
that's working. We've basically ticked off, in turn, each of the major items on
our agenda. Putting the ABCC back in place. Establishing a registered
organisations commission. Providing protection for CFA volunteers in my state
in Victoria. Passing the Omnibus Savings Bill. Significant education reforms
thanks to the good work of Simon Birmingham. That's what we should be focused
on. Doing the people's business and that's exactly what we're doing.
finally Mitch Fifield, Tony Abbott said last week that there will come a time
when he has to simply just speak up in support of the Government. When should
of my colleagues should speak in support of the Government every day. We've got
a good program. We've got good runs on the board. We've got a lot of good news
to talk about. But we've also got a lot of work left to do.