Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (15:56): On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network I present the committee’s report entitled Review of the rollout of the National Broadband Network: third report, incorporating a dissenting report, together with the minutes of proceedings and evidence received by the committee.
Ordered that the report be made a parliamentary paper.
Mr OAKESHOTT: by leave—I present the Third Report of the Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network, that has been covering the period from 1 July to 31 December 2011 as well as other issues reported for the period from 1 January to 31 March 2012.
Over the period covered in the report, a number of significant regulatory matters have progressed. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission considered and approved the structural separation of Telstra and accompanying draft customer migration plan, allowing for the finalisation of the Telstra agreement which involves decommissioning Telstra's copper network.
The NBN rollout has experienced an eight-month delay due largely to the time taken to complete the Telstra agreement.
The ACCC also approved the Optus agreement which will allow for decommissioning of the Optus HFC network and transfer of customers onto the NBN.
The NBN Co.'s Special Access Undertaking which sets NBN access pricing terms and conditions is being considered by the ACCC and will again be examined by the committee during its fourth review.
In this report, the committee signalled its concern about comments made by the NBN Co. that NBN rollout targets contained in the 2011-2013 corporate plan are no longer valid due to changes in the assumptions underpinning these targets. The committee found that this statement and the absence of corporate plan targets in the shareholder ministers' performance report means targets are not able to be compared between performance reports.
The NBN Co. also stated that 'if there are any future policy changes, the assumptions in the new corporate plan would have to change'. The committee considers that this statement means that any future targets are rendered unreliable as soon as there is any change to the NBN rollout environment.
The committee does not find it meaningful to be provided with data on how many premises have been passed or premises made active between periods or years without any kind of target or benchmark on which to compare this data.
And more significantly, if revised NBN rollout targets will be subject to change without warning, this will mean there is no way of gauging the progress of the NBN rollout in relation to costs expended on the public infrastructure project. The committee has recommended that the Shareholder Ministers' Report does, therefore, include key performance indicator information for targets in the business plan for homes passed, homes connected and services in operation.
The committee's interest in the contracting and procurement practices of the NBN Co. gained momentum during its third review. As the NBN Co. is not subject to the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines, Australians have no reassurance that the procurements associated with the network rollout are cost effective and transparent. A centralised depository as proposed in recommendation 8 would assist in countering the NBN Co.'s exemptions from a raft of transparency and accountability measures that are faced by other departments.
I commend the energy and enthusiasm of regional communities such as Coffs Harbour for seizing the opportunities and confronting the challenges that high-speed broadband will create. At the same time, the committee became aware of community concerns about the difficulty of extending the fibre footprint. NBN Co. consults with communities at the final stage of the development of network design, leaving little time for communities to develop such applications. Many individuals or businesses learn of the decision upon the NBN Co.'s announcement—a point at which a decision appears to be final and not open to further negotiation.
The committee also found there needs to be more effective community and small business engagement in the public's education on all matters relating to the NBN. The committee remains interested in examining the points of entry for private investment in the NBN—both in the form of equity and debt funding—to ensure a maximum return on the government's investment is secured on behalf of Australian taxpayers. This matter will therefore continue to be monitored by the committee as part of its ongoing review of the NBN rollout. I expect the fourth report will place great emphasis on that work.
The final matter considered by the committee in its report concerned Telstra workforce retraining issues associated with the NBN rollout. The government has committed to providing $100 million to Telstra under a retraining funding deed to assist it in the retraining and deployment of Telstra employees affected by these reforms to the structure of the telecommunications industry.
These training arrangements with Telstra were not fully implemented at the time of the committee finalising its report and the committee will continue its inquiry into this matter. The committee has recommended that the department publish a reporting document on annual progress under these training arrangements.
The committee is interested in the level and value of employment creation through the building and operation of the NBN, including local and regional employment. In its report, the committee recommended that NBN Co. communicate major areas of emerging training needs and workforce demand with regard to the rollout of the NBN to assist with future Australian workforce planning in this sector.
In relation to the inquiry process, the committee has again received answers to questions placed on notice at hearings too late and commented on these delays in addition to the limited information regularly received in written responses. We urge the government and NBN Co. to do better. The committee is responsible for reviewing the six-monthly rollout of the NBN and takes this responsibility seriously given the large public expenditure and time taken to enable the NBN to be completed. The committee has again recommended that internal processes for the approval of answers to questions on notice be changed so that the committee—and, by extension, the community—is given the information it has asked for by the due date.
I would like to thank all committee members for their continuing focus on these important economic and social issues. I do note a dissenting report from the member for Wentworth on behalf of the Liberal-National Party. I do flag as chair that these issues are worthy of both consideration and response from government and the NBN Co. I also invite the member for Wentworth in future to consider making these considerations as part of the actual formal part of the committee's work.
I thank the secretariat for their ongoing good work and for the diligence that has gone into this third report. This is a very large committee of over 60 members of parliament from all political persuasions. It is a hotly contested area of policy and, therefore, I think the secretariat does a fantastic job of managing that process and getting a report before the House. I commend the report to the House.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Does the member for Lyne wish to move a motion that the House take note of the report?
Mr OAKESHOTT: I move:
That the House take note of the report.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: In accordance with standing order 39(d), the debate is adjourned. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting and the member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.