Drive with Alicia Loxley
774 ABC Melbourne
10 July 2017
E & OE
You might have heard the nbn is
celebrating a bit of a milestone today.
We are being told that those charged with rolling it out have hit the
half way mark. So more than one in two
Aussies now have the nbn and Communications Minister Mitch Fifield joins me now
on the line. G’day Minister.
You are half way there.
Half way there. It will be all done and dusted by 2020 which
is six to eight years sooner than would have been the case under our
predecessors. So it is good news.
It is fair to say that it hasn't
been all smooth sailing though isn’ it?
Look this is a massive
project. It is a complex project. We are essentially trying to do in six or
eight years what it took the PMG, Telecom and Telstra 100 years to do. And that is to connect every premises in the
Nation to a new communications network.
So yes there will be people who have an experience that isn't all that
we would want it to be. But the
overwhelming experience of people on the nbn to date has been a good one.
I just wanted to ask you about a
Choice survey which disputes that. It
found that 62 percent of Australian consumers experienced internet problems
over the last six months. And nbn users
reported they faced slow speeds an dropouts 76 percent of the time. Your response to that?
Well the majority of people who
would have been surveyed by Choice and who were surveyed by other surveyors,
such as ACAMI, would be people who are on the pre nbn network. It is one of the
reasons why we are wanting to roll the nbn out as fast as we can, is because we
recognise that the pre nbn network isn’t what people want. In terms of those who are already on the nbn,
nbn tell us that they get connection right the first time on nine out of ten
occasions. Now obviously we want nbn to
do better than that, they are learning as they go and continually improving.
The multi technology approach that
you are using with the existing copper network that’s continuing to draw
criticism. Do you think that’s been the
right approach. To speed it up, I know
that sped up the process, but in hindsight now it’s causing problems for some
users. Do you think that was the right
Look I think that the multi
technology mix approach is absolutely the right one. And the mandate for nbn is to use the
technology that makes sense in a given area, that will see the nbn rolled out
fastest and at lowest cost. And as a
result of taking that approach, as I mentioned, nbn will be completed by 2020,
six to eight years sooner than would have been the case under our
predecessors. It will also be completed
about $30 billion less cost. And when we
came into office in 2013 everyone was telling us they want the nbn sooner
rather than later, so this approach allows us to do that. But also it doesn’t prevent upgrade paths in
the future as and when they become necessary.
Well detractors have been saying
that the network will have to be ripped up and replaced in the next decade
because you have gone down that multi technology path.
Well look that’s not right. Already with the nbn network if you are
talking fixed wireless nbn has worked out how they can increase speeds on that
from 50mbps to 100mbps. With the HFC pay
TV cable network which we are also using nbn is working right now on ways of
increasing speed there. With fibre to
the node there will be upgrade paths in the future. I think it’s important to recognise that nbn
is providing what Australians need.
Something of the order of 83% of people who are on the nbn are opting
for packages of 25mbps or less, and that really doesn't vary very much whether
you are talking fibre to the node or if you are talking fibre to the
premise. You really get the full
economic benefits once the whole Nation has it, and we want them to have it as
soon as possible.
I wanted to ask you about the
latest newspoll it spells more trouble for you government doesn’t it?
Well Alicia your very adept at
analysing polls and commenting on them.
I don’t know about that I just
read the figures and it seems like it wasn't good news for the government.
Look you and your journalistic
colleagues, your stock and trade is to look at the polls and talk about them,
and that is appropriate. My job is to
focus on rolling out the nbn and delivering media reform. That’s what's occupying me.
OK but it is 15 in a row now so
you are sort of edging closer to that benchmark that Malcom Turnbull made for
challenging for the leadership.
Look we don’t focus on the
polls. What we focus on is doing the
people's business and this is a government that is working. This is a Parliament that is working. You
know just putting my hat on as the Manager of Government Business in the Senate
we’ve got 165 pieces of legislation through this Parliament, 36 in the last
sitting forthright alone. And we have been ticking off one by one the major
items of our agenda. Bringing back the
Australian Building and Construction Commission. Legislating protection for CFA volunteers in
Victoria. Setting up a Registered
Organisations Commission. Legislating the important education reforms that
Simon Birmingham has been overseeing. Legislating the Omnibus Savings Bill to
put the budget back on a path to balance.
So these are the things that we are focussing on and we have been
I’m speaking to Communications
Minister Mitch Fifield. Minister I
wanted to ask you, some of your colleagues in the last week have spoken about
your previous leaders comments, and that the only person that is helping is
Bill Shorten. In this mornings news poll
we see that he has closed the gap to just eight points as preferred Prime
Minister. Do you think there is a correlation
there between Tony Abbott’s comments and the Labor party's rise in the latest
Well I urge all of my colleagues
to focus on the job at hand. And that is
giving effect to our agenda, if we do that then when it comes to the next
election hopefully the voting public will look to favourably upon us.
Another topic I wanted to ask you
about is same sex marriage. Liberal
Senator Dean Smith is drafting a bill to allow any two people to marry, I think
the words he used in The Sunday Times in WA was “the time is now” describing
the issue as an embarrassment to the Nation.
What do you think about that.
Well this is an issue that people
feel strongly about on both sides of the debate and because of that we took to
the last election a policy that was to put this in the hands of the Australian
public. To have a plebiscite so that
they could have their say. We won the
last election, we had a mandate to do that but unfortunately Bill Shorten
decided to block the plebiscite legislation in the Parliament.
I think that he should have
respected the mandate that we had. And I
think it is peculiar because Bill Shorten himself has previously been an
advocate for a plebiscite on this issue.
It is pretty strong language isn’t
it to use as a Liberal Senator “it’s an embarrassment to the Nation” it's increasingly
looking like you are a party bitterly divided on this issue.
Well we have a plan, we have a
policy, we took it to the election and that was for a plebiscite. We could have had this issue done and dusted
already if Bill Shorten hadn’t stood in the way of a plebiscite.
Mitch Fifield thanks so much for
your time and congratulations on reaching that magic half waypoint for the nbn.
Thanks very much Alicia.
Mitch Fifield Communications