The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

29 July 2011

Joint Press Conference with
Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

Press Conference

Kiama

29 July 2011

SUBJECTS: National Broadband Network; Immigration Centres; Clean Energy Future

TREASURER:

It's great to be here in Kiama for the launch of the NBN.  It's good to be here with Steve Conroy, Steve Jones and Mike Quigley.  I think we heard from the Mayor this morning just how important the NBN is to the future of this regional community, as it is to the future of regional communities' right around Australia.  Regional Australia absolutely understands the importance of the NBN.  The importance in terms of delivering services such as health and education and of course we saw a vivid demonstration of that this morning.  How important it can be to provide services to local communities who have not previously been able to access those services. 

And it's also important for small business.  Small business is already relocating to this area because what the NBN does is lift the productivity of business and provides them with enormous opportunities to provide services wherever they live.  What we see here is why the NBN is such an important nation building project.  It will lift our productivity as a nation and it will help us provide services for more Australians in more locations.  It's very important for regional Australia but very important for Australia overall.  I might just ask Steve to say a couple of words.

CONROY:

Today is very, very exciting.  The potential of the National Broadband Network to end the tyranny of distance, to provide educational opportunities, health care opportunities, smart green environmental sustainability possibilities and many, many others of which the majority have yet to be invented.  That's what we're building here.  We're building capacity for the future so that when those new inventions come along they will not need us to start from scratch to build the new infrastructure. 

It's like making sure that the people who commissioned the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1927.  If they had just been building for the capacity of 10,000 registered vehicles in Sydney in 1927, with no parking allowed in the CBD, you'd have built a one lane bridge.  But people in 1927 had some vision for the future and they built the enormous capacity of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  The National Broadband Network is not just about building for today, or even two years time, or five years time.  It's about future proofing our nation, giving it the best possible infrastructure to make it internationally competitive for the next fifty years.

TREASURER:

Okay, over to you.

JOURNALIST:

Senator Conroy what advice have you had in relation to the issues being faced on the tendering process?  These are trial sites but the roll out of the NBN will require resolution to that tendering issue.  What's your latest advice on that?

CONROY:

Well, in New South Wales and Queensland and the ACT we've completed the tendering for the construction company and I will be announcing very shortly the construction start dates for New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT.  I understand, and Mike is here today as well, but I understand we're not far from completing the resolution of the tendering for construction for the rest of Australia.  So we expect some very exciting announcements over coming weeks about the roll out, not just here in New South Wales, but also across the rest of the country.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, your reaction to at least one of the ISP saying he's concerned under the rollout method that regional Australians may end up paying more for access to the NBN? 

CONROY:

Well, unfortunately if you look at what happened in the last week or so we've had two companies announce national pricing uniformly across Australia.  Dodo have said they'll be putting in place a national sub $40.00 entry price and Exetel have put in place a $35.00 main land Australia national price.  So these claims that people will be paying more in regional areas for the National Broadband Network are just being shown by other retail service providers to be false.

JOURNALIST:

Do you expect the price of the fastest access to the NBN, the 100 megabits per second, to come down in price because I think that per month is something well over $100.00?

CONROY:

Well, I think if you look at the capacity that's available on the National Broadband Network and the restructure of the industry where we now have a wholesale only company which treats every customer the same you will see retail competition.  We're yet to see the pricing for the Telstras, the Optuses, the iinets – the biggest three in the country.  We're yet to see Vodafone, the world's largest communication company, which have said that because of the NBN for the first time they will enter the fixed line market.  They're a mobile company here in Australia.  They've never offered services. 

So we've got four of the biggest companies have yet to release their prices.  I see more exciting retail competition and we all know that retail competition will actually lead to lower prices.  So we've seen one of the premium service providers with some of the premium pricing put its prices out there but if you look at the offers, not just the $35 offer, but I think an equivalent sort of offer for the higher end speeds and usage was around $100.  So I think you're seeing competition already.

JOURNALIST:

What about the take up rate at the moment?  What is the take-up rate even though it's in a trial stage.  What's the predicted take up rate here in Kiama?

CONROY:

Look ultimately unless somebody says they don't want to be connected – and people will have the ability to say no we don't want the National Broadband Network – we will have 100 per cent of fixed lines, other than those who say don't connect us.  Because the deal we have with Telstra is that we are decommissioning.  We are cutting off, closing down the copper network.  So the take-up rate for the fixed line will be essentially in the fibre footprint of 100 per cent.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible) only receiving 20 megabits per second at the moment.  Can you guarantee that each household will be capable of receiving 100 megabits?

CONROY:

Look absolutely.  I'd probably have to pass to Mike on a technical question like that, but this is a trial and we're obviously going through the trial processes of ensuring it all works.  But there are a variety of reasons, some of which have got nothing to do with the National Broadband Network.  We have had this occasion in other places where companies haven't got enough local backhaul or other important aspects of the technology ready but I would probably pass to Mike for a more seasoned explanation of that.

QUIGLEY:

The network itself is going to 100 megabits per second and we're testing that to make absolutely sure that's the case but you can have situations where, as the Senator has said, you can have servers or backhaul, other parts of the network, or you can also have the person's equipment itself.  They could have an older PC, they could be going over a wifi modem that slow it down.  So they're the reasons.  The network is absolutely capable of 100 megabits per second peak speeds.

If I can also just, if I can while I'm here, address this issue of the cost of 100 megabits service.  As one of the retail service providers said just the other day, this is 100 megabits down and 40 megabits per second up.  It costs you literally thousands of dollars to buy that service today.  You can't get that kind of service even from hybrid fibre coax connection and it's a service that small businesses will find extremely valuable and it's a fraction of the costs of today.

JOURNALIST:

How many Mike, of the 2,500 people that have actually been connected can sign up with one of the few providers that's offering the service as of today? All of them?

QUIGLEY:

Yes, certainly all of them.  In fact it's not 2,500 it's 2,350 that we've got connected today and any one of them, and we're seeing that now, the numbers are day by day increasing, steadily increasing as people decide – yes we want to turn this service on.

JOURNALIST:

Do you have a target, say for Kiama, over a period of time that a certain number of those 2,500 people actually have an ISP and are accessing the NBN via them?

QUIGLEY:

We have an expectation that, as the Senator has said, as people see the value of this – and remember we're going to be going through the country as we retire the ageing copper and replace it with fibre - that obviously the vast majority of people will be interested in moving across on to this new service. 

JOURNALIST:

Mike, as you rollout the NBN do you have to also upgrade mobile telephone access because people around here still have a lot of problems sometimes making a call or accessing data via a mobile phone?

QUIGLEY:

We are a fixed line service, wholesale service.  There are three suppliers of mobile services today.  We really are not part of the mobile service.

JOURNALIST:

But if you're running a business shouldn't you have a mobile phone connection as well?

QUIGLEY:

We expect people to have both mobile services and fixed services and what we're also seeing, it's happening around the world, people's iphones and ipads are using the mobile network, preview networks, but swapping across on to the fixed line network through wifi as fast as they can.

JOURNALIST:

We heard sorry, from people who've been down here before that Kiama is one of the most challenging areas for broadband connections.  I mean, do you think that what we're going to see with these trial users are we going to see a lot of, you know, difficulty?

QUIGLEY:

No, no.  One of the reasons we chose, the engineers chose Kiama, is because it's a tough place to actually put a connection in because we're standing here on basalt.  That was the reason.  We in fact are very happy with the take-up rates we are now seeing.

JOURNALIST:

Mike, do you want to respond to whether it be community misunderstanding or confusion about what happened in relation to Platform Networks being allegedly hacked and confusion over whether that was the NBN being hacked?

QUIGLEY:

No the NBN was not hacked.  Platform Networks is one of the retail service providers with which we're working and I don't – you'd have to talk to Platform Networks about exactly what happened there – but allegedly their network was hacked, ours was not.  But having said that, this is an issue that all of us in the country have to take seriously which is why we have a chief security officer and we've been working with the security agencies in the Government virtually from day one of the NBN and we take this issue very seriously, but let me reiterate the NBN was not hacked.

JOURNALIST:

Wayne Swan, do you want to make some comments in relation to the findings over the immigration centres and the rates of suicide that came out last night?

TREASURER:

Well, these are matters for the Minister Mr Bowen.  I saw the reports last night from the Ombudsman and I saw him say that he was going to continue to investigate but over and above that I'm not going to make any further comment.

JOURNALIST:

Do you have a reaction to the report?  Obviously many people in the community would be concerned by those numbers.

TREASURER:

I haven't had the benefit of a briefing on the report.  I saw the media reports myself last night.  I noted that he would continue his investigations.  I will look at those reports and when I do I will respond.  I think they are most immediately matters for the Minister for Immigration.  Any other questions?

JOURNALIST:

We're getting more detail today about the so called emission cops that would be going around to the country's top polluters and looking at what's being put out.  Can you say something about that?

TREASURER:

Well, I can.  I mean, the fact is when, under Australian law, people commit fraud they are charged and if fraud is committed with any law then there will be charges that follow.  So it follows that any laws we put in place in terms of putting a price on carbon, if they're broken or someone commits fraud then they face a penalty.  It has never been any different in the past.  It will never be any different in the future.

JOURNALIST:

So it won't trade at all under the emissions trading scheme?

TREASURER:

Well, if people break the law and if people commit fraud they commit a crime and they are punished for it under any law of the nation.  I think the reports today are pretty ridiculous to be frank.