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

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

1 September 2011

Doorstop Interview

Townsville

1 September 2011

SUBJECTS: National Broadband Network; Peter Beattie; High Court decision; global economy

TREASURER:

Okay can I say it's great to be here in Townsville for the launch of Queensland's first release site for the NBN. It's exciting as you can see for all of the students here today and we heard what possibilities the NBN brings in terms of educational opportunities. But it's far broader than that because what we know is that the NBN is a game changer for regional Australia, terribly important for North Queensland but important for all of Australia's great regions because it will connect the regions to the rest of the country and it will connect them all to the world and it will do that in super fast time. This technology is absolutely essential to a prosperous economy in the 21st century - that's why NBN is so important. And we heard about some of the great possibilities today, the possibilities in terms of health care, telehealth - the trial that's going to be held here in Townsville in terms of diabetes type 2.

So whether it's healthcare, whether it's educational services or whether it's all of the traditional industries of this great city of Townsville, whether it's the traditional smelting industries, the heavy manufacturing, whether it's the tourism industry, whether it's the research base here, whether it's the universities or whether it's the professional services that are in place here - all of these will now be connected to the world in super fast time. So that's why this is such an important event, not just for Townsville but for regional Australia because this rollout is essential to our future prosperity. It is of course something that is not recognised by the Liberal Party - they want to rip it up. Local Liberals like Mr Jones, and Mr Turnbull want to rip up the NBN but this is a critical nation-building project for Australia that goes to the very core of our future productivity.

I also wanted to say a couple of words too about some economic data out today. We've got retail sales out today which are higher than expected. It is the case that retailers are still doing it pretty tough in our patchwork economy and that consumers are being cautious. But there were some really strong capital investment data out today. Capital investment of $120 billion in the Australian economy in 2010-11. It expected to be $150 billion in 2011-12. What that shows is that investors have great faith in the future of the Australian economy. And I've just come back from Asia and I can tell you that international investors have great faith in the future of the Australian economy and want to invest here because of our very strong economic fundamentals, our strong public finances, our low public debt, our strong financial institutions, our regulators but importantly that strong investment pipeline that I was talking about before goes to the essence of why the Australian economy has very solid fundamentals despite the fact that many people are in that patchwork economy and some sectors are certainly doing it tough. I'll leave it there. Sorry, I might just ask Mike to say a few words about the NBN.

QUIGLEY:

Thank you, Deputy Prime Minister. It's a pleasure to be here today, and celebrate and thank the people of Townsville for working with us in this first trial site here in Queensland. We've in fact launched the fourth of five trial sites around the country. We're now getting into high gear as we start to roll out and we'll be crossing the road just behind us here, Ross River Road, and heading north over the next month as we continue to build out the network. So NBN Co is now gearing up into high gear to start rolling out this crucial, important piece of infrastructure, the Treasurer has just spoken about, right across the nation. Thank you.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, what's your response to reports that Labor has approached Peter Beattie to run for the Federal seat of Brisbane?

TREASURER:

Well, I'm not aware of those reports and I'm not aware that there's any validity or not. So it's the first time I've heard of that.

JOURNALIST:

Would you support it?

TREASURER:

I'm not aware of it and I'm not going to entertain something that's completely hypothetical. He's a great guy. He's a very effective politician but I won't say any more than that because I'm not aware of it.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think he has what it takes to run for the seat?

TREASURER:

Hang on, I just said I'm not going into hypotheticals and I'm not.

JOURNALIST:

The Parliamentary Committee yesterday raised concerns that the key indicators for the NBN haven't been released. When will they be released?

TREASURER:

About the what, sorry?

JOURNALIST:

The key performance indicators...

TREASURER:

Well, I might just throw to Mike, he's had a fair bit to say about all of this.

QUIGLEY:

Yes certainly. We're developing with the Government - our shareholder - a bunch of, a range of key indicators in due course they will be made available to the Joint Parliamentary Committee which as you know is in place and then it's the shareholder who will look at releasing those I think on a regular basis. We're quite happy as a publicly funded company to be completely transparent and open about how we're going.

What I can tell you today if you want some key indicators is that we now have approximately 1,700 people across the nation on the network with live services. More than 400 of those on the satellite service who are now for the first time getting a really good satellite service. They'll get an even better one when 2015 comes and we've launched the two large satellites that we will.

JOURNALIST:

There have been concerns about security recently with the NBN. Are you concerned about that at all?

QUIGLEY:

No there really hasn't been. I think the concerns about security were related to a retail service provider. Our network in the NBN Co was never penetrated, and as you can expect we've been working very closely with government agencies and doing all, taking all the steps that we need to take to ensure the security is as solid as we can make it. You can never get it 100 per cent, nobody could ever guarantee that but we're taking all the right steps.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible)

TREASURER:

We took legal advice from credible authorities on this matter and I think it was unexpected that the High Court would take a new direction with its judgement but the High Court takes its decisions and we will have to study those decisions closely. But the High Court has certainly struck out in a completely different direction from the approach it had previously. That has had the implications that we've seen discussed today and what the Government will do is study that judgement closely and evaluate all options. Over and above that I'm going to leave further commentary to the Prime Minister and to the relevant minister who are talking about this matter as we speak.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible)

TREASURER:

I can't hear you, sorry.

JOURNALIST:

Is the Cabinet meeting tonight about the (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

No, we're having a Community Cabinet in Brisbane which is a scheduled meeting of the Cabinet, which has been scheduled for some time and we'll be in Brisbane talking to locals at a Yeronga High School, I think.

JOURNALIST:

How safe is Julia Gillard's leadership?

TREASURER:

Absolutely.

JOURNALIST:

Sorry?

TREASURER:

Absolutely.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Swan, do you agree that the Labor Party has a credibility problem in Queensland?

TREASURER:

Not at all. I don't accept that for one second. We have a strong economy and we have a very big reform program which is going to benefit this state in many significant ways and we're here today talking about one of those. The NBN is critical for the future prosperity of Queensland but what we are putting in place in terms of skills, our plans for the future to use the revenue from the MRRT to give a tax cut to small business and to other companies that aren't in the fast lane of the mining boom. These are all fundamentally very sound policies which will benefit the state of Queensland.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Swan, I'm after (inaudible)

TREASURER:

Well, we're determined to smash the people smugglers' model and we put in place a regional plan to do that. The High Court has struck out in a different direction and has taken a decision which means that we will have to go back and look at all options. Nobody expected the High Court to do this. This was not our legal advice. Nevertheless it has been done and what a responsible government does in those circumstances is to go back, look at the judgement and responsibly evaluate future directions.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible)

TREASURER:

Well, I'm not going to speculate on the outcomes of this decision.

JOURNALIST:

It just seems that every day is very hard for the Government. Problems keep cropping up and up.

TREASURER:

Well, there are challenges in the global economy at the moment and there are challenges which come to governments everyday of the week and we're up for meeting those challenges and for tackling them. I've just come back from China because I've been looking at what's going on in the global economy and I can tell you what: Australia is fundamentally strong and the region is fundamentally strong. There are big challenges which are being posed for our region and our country by what is going on elsewhere in the global economy but we're dealing with those as we deal with all of the challenges and as we deal with the decision of the High Court. That's what Governments do and we're doing it.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible) The Salvos (inaudible)

TREASURER:

Well, I haven't seen all of the detail of that, so I'm not going to comment until I see some further detail. Thanks very much.