Transcript of doorstop interview, Townsville
THU 12 JULY 2012
Subject(s): NBN Announcement; Carbon Pricing; Industrial Relations; Australian Greens; G20; Bruce Highway; Labour Force Figures
PM: I’m very pleased to be here in Townsville. I’m joined by our Senator for Queensland, Jan McLucas who’s very well known in this part of Queensland, and also by the CEO of our National Broadband Network Company, Mike Quigley.
We’ve had the opportunity just over there to watch some of the National Broadband Network fibre being rolled out. We’ve had the opportunity too to speak to some local business people and the local University about the difference the National Broadband Network is making here in Townsville.
We’ve had the opportunity too to chat to a few people who are just moving around including a number of people who have the good sense to come and holiday in Townsville.
So I am glad to be here today and of course Townsville has benefited from being amongst the first to see the rollout of the National Broadband Network and we know from international studies, from our own experience that having broadband makes a difference to productivity, to the economy and to jobs.
We’re getting on with the job of building the NBN right here in Townsville. Already 3,000 premises have been connected to the NBN, right now work is underway to rollout the fibre to 14,500 more premises, and that’s part of 43,600 premises that will see the rollout of the fibre in Townsville as part of the current three-year rollout plan.
So it’s happening all around you and I just learnt myself about something called roding and roping which is to get the fibre through. Significantly the fibre in Townsville is being put underground because of the benefits of the deal we did with Telstra to get access to their infrastructure and for Townsville, which of course from time to time has to face natural disasters including cyclones, the security of having the fibre underground is very important.
I’m here today to make two important announcements about the future of the NBN and future rollout of broadband services.
We are rolling out fibre around the nation and it’s going to over 90 per cent of premises. But for the premises that are in rural and remote Australia that lie beyond the reach of the fibre, we want to make sure that people get the benefits of broadband.
So for those people in remote Australia who will reply on satellite services, we have already announced that we will put two satellites into the orbit to meet their needs.
Today I’m able to announcement that NBN Co. has signed a contract worth $280 million to deliver the on the ground infrastructure necessary for those satellite services to be received.
This is the on the ground equipment; the satellite dishes, the infrastructure which means that the satellite service can work. It also means dishes will go on 200,000 premises in the most remote parts of Australia so they can get the benefit of broadband through the satellite service. This is going to create jobs; around 300 of them doing the construction. And it means that this work will happen and between 2015 when the satellite launches will occur.
Secondly, and significantly for people in the outer reaches of Townsville, I want to make an announcement about the way in which wireless services will be delivered. Of course the people of Townsville are seeing the rollout of broadband but for people on the outskirts of Townsville and the outskirts of many regional centres around the country, the way in which they receive their broadband will be through wireless services.
I’m able to announce today that we will be planning, in the coming period, the necessary work to ensure that around 15,000 people who live around Townsville, and around 30,000 premises in total around Townsville, Rockhampton and Mackay will get the benefit of these wireless services.
This delivers broadband at a rate which is in excess of that experienced by a lot by a lot of metropolitan Australia and we want this planning work to start now so we can get on with the job of providing these wireless services.
This is all part of our vision to transform our economy and the way that we deliver services for the future. As Prime Minister, I don’t want to see our nation left behind. Other economies are getting the benefits of broadband, we can’t afford for our nation to be left with yesterday’s technology.
So the National Broadband Network is an important nation building project.
I’ll hand over to Mike Quigley who is leading this important project and its delivery, for further details of today’s announcements.
QUIGLEY: Thank you Prime Minister.
First of all, if I can thank our colleagues Colin Harkness, who is chair of broadband for the tropics, and also Prof. Sandra Harding who is the Vice-Chancellor of James Cook University. NBN Co. has been working quite closely with both of those organisations up here in Northern Queensland and it’s been a very useful relationship. We expect it to continue as we go forward.
I’d also like to thank the folks who live in Aitkenvale and Mundingburra just to our south west here for their patience and perseverance as being one of the five first release fibre trial sites.
As the Prime Minister has said, we have close to 3,000 people who are now covered in that area and we have a take up rate or some 23 per cent which is, after just 12 months, is a very high figure.
Now it’s interesting to see in fact we’ve got a bit of a competition going on I think between the four or five first release sites of who can climb up that take up rate the fastest. So I’d like to thank those folks for their perseverance and patience with us as we’re going through the construction-build process, trying some of our processes.
As the Prime Minister has said we’re now starting to rollout in other modules around Townsville. That’s happening in Gulliver as we continue to work and also here in the Townsville centre itself, and you can see that work will be going on module by module over the next while.
I’d like also to acknowledge our partners here, Silcar and we have in fact the CEO of Silcar here and the General Manager with us. We have a very strong partnership with Silcar now in Townsville, and obviously right across the eastern seaboard.
We’ve got a big job ahead of us over the next 12 months as we now really are getting into gear and starting to ramp up.
So that’s the fibre, as the Prime Minister said, we’re also doing a lot of work now on fixed wireless. We have some 10,000 premises country-wide now covered, including Toowoomba in the south of Queensland here, Ballarat, Tamworth and Geraldton in Western Australia.
That work is also now proceeding and I just want to emphasise, that fixed wireless service is an excellent service. It’s not just a question of speeds, which the initial speeds will be 12mbs now, as good as a typical ADSL2+ but it’s also we have engineered this fixed wire solution for very, very good capacities.
So you’ll be able to get a large number of gigabytes per month in terms of capacity on a fixed wireless server, unlike a mobile service. That’s the distinction.
We put an antenna up on the premise and we have fixed number of people in the cell, so people don’t roam about which means we can maintain a very good service on the fixed wireless service.
Likewise on the satellite service, which the Prime Minister just referred to, the announcement was made today of the $280 million to Via Sat, is the second piece, the first piece was putting these two large satellites into orbit, which we’ll do in 2015, so the manufacturing of those has started.
Now we’re constructing ten ground stations around the country. Each of those will have a 13.5 metre dish – a huge dish – which will communicate with the satellite and relay the signal back down to the smaller 0.8 metre dishes that will be on people’s homes.
So there’s a lot of work now taking place all around the country, on fibre, on fixed wireless and on satellite and I would like to emphasise for those people who are in the fixed wireless and the satellite footprint, you will be getting a very good service. Thank you.
PM: We’ll take questions on these NBN announcements and then after taking those we’ll do questions of the day. So are there any questions on the two announcements or the NBN generally?
QUESTION: You said there was a 24 per cent take up of it, is that really that considerate given how much has actually been invested in the NBN?
PM: This is the take-up as people get access to the NBN. Many of them would be coming up off other arrangements for how they’re getting their broadband, so they’re switching over time, actually that’s in advance of the projections of take up.
The projections of take-up initially were at a lower level, so we’re very pleased with that rate. It shows that people are moving over to the broadband network and of course I think our history tells us Australians are very good technology adopters and adapters.
It’s not that long ago that mobile phones were viewed as strange, clunky, brick-like things that tradespeople carried around, and everybody wondered to themselves why on earth would they want those and are they just a fad, will they be gone tomorrow? And now I’m sure most of the people standing here at this press conference are probably never more than two inches from their iPhone or their Blackberry.
So it just goes to show how quickly we actually adapt to new technology.
QUESTION: You mentioned you’ll assist business, most businesses in Townsville are more concerned about the carbon tax, what do you say to them about this investment?
PM: I’d say this is the future. And it gives businesses here in Townsville the ability to trade around our nation and with the rest of the world, as if it was next door.
One of the issues for great regional centres like this one in the past has been distance from other population centres. So if you grew your business up here and then you thought, the future of my business is by getting a presence in Sydney, you were really torn. Do you stay in Townsville, where you love it and your family is, or do you go to Sydney to take the next step with your business.
Well, those kind of choices won’t have to be made in the future. People will be able to live in Townsville and trade in Brisbane or Sydney or Melbourne or Shanghai of Beijing or Hong Kong or London, as if it was next door. This is the future.
QUESTION: Can you appreciate why those businesses are concerned about the carbon tax though?
PM: We’ll take carbon questions once we’ve done any broadband questions. Okay, alright so, I’m happy to take other questions
QUESTION: Can you appreciate why local businesses are worried about what’s going to happen under the carbon tax?
PM: Oh look I can appreciate that local people, businesses and families have been scared by the fear campaign that’s gone on for more than 12 long months now. So they’ve been treated to ridiculous claims from the Opposition like, ‘Gladstone’s going to be wiped off the map, no one will mine coal any more, buying a Sunday leg of lamb’s going to cost them $100, that the price increases in the shops will be astronomical’, they’ve been treated to all of that and of course that’s made people anxious.
I understand that. Now people have got the opportunity to judge for themselves; they can judge for themselves, is Gladstone still there today? The answer’s yes. Is the Sunday roast costing $100? The answer’s no. Have price increases been astronomical? The answer is no. Are we still mining coal and seeing an expanding coal mining industry? You bet. And are people seeing the benefits of tax cuts and family payment increases and pension increases? Yes they are. And that assistance will be ongoing.
So, over the months ahead, people will be able to work it through and work it out for themselves.
QUESTION: Have you had much feedback from local business about the carbon tax pricing and stuff like that, much feedback?
PM: I’ll be here in Townsville today and I’m very open to people’s feedback. I’ll be doing a bit of blogging so people will be able to ask any question that they want to.
But during the time I’ve been in Queensland I’ve had the opportunity to be in a business forum in Brisbane where we brought big businesses and small businesses together. I’ve attended a Community Cabinet. People have been raising with me a wide variety of issues about business today, about the strength of our economy, about the patchwork nature of our economy, the resources sector going so strongly but the high dollar also putting pressure on areas like tourism.
And people have been talking about the future of our economy and what we are here today to announce is a big part of that future. We simply cannot allow ourselves to be left behind the standards of the region and the standards of the world. And the nations we compete with will have, or already do have, access to broadband.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, Tony Abbott says that he’s the worker’s best friend. Shouldn’t the Australian Labor Party be fulfilling that role?
PM: Oh well with friends like that who needs an enemy?
Mr Abbott today was ducking and weaving about whether or not he would rip penalty rates off working people. We’ve been here before when Mr Abbott was in Government, and he and his cohorts were in on a plan to rip penalty rates off hard working Australians.
People who rely on that money to pay the mortgage or pay the rent and feed the kids. If that’s been the worker’s best friend then I’d hate to see an enemy of working people.
QUESTION: While he’s tried to however position himself as the worker’s friend, and yesterday you certainly gave an eloquent outline of Labor’s credentials in this area. Do you agree with Malcolm Mackerra’s position this morning that to really display, in some ways the worker’s friend, you have to become the Greens’ enemy?
PM: We’ve got to be a Labor Party and that’s what we will always be, true to our heritage of benefiting working people and bringing that heritage to the future.
And if you look at something like the National Broadband Network, people might think that’s a long way from historic Labor values, but there is a connection here. Either we shape the future or we allow ourselves to be shaped by it.
If we just said, let whatever’s going to happen with broadband happen around the country, I’ll tell you exactly what would have happened.
The wealthiest parts of our biggest cities would have had the benefit of the fibre, they would have had the world’s best broadband and the suburbs and regional centres where decent working people live would have missed out.
That would have been the future; a digital divide that reflected the income gap and wealth gap in our nation.
Well, the National Broadband Network is a Labor plan because it says, whether you’re a working person who lives in Townsville or whether you’re a multi-millionaire who lives in one of our big cities, or whether you actually live on a station in outback Australia, you too should get the benefits of this new technology and not be left behind.
QUESTION: How about Malcolm Mackerra’s broader point, which was that really you’ve positioned yourself there as the worker’s friend. You do need to become the enemy of the Greens if you like. That was the actual term he used.
PM: I’m not going to, you can talk about position, I’ll talk about what we believe in. There’s a lot of talk about brand in politics. We’re not a brand, we’re a Party that’s a cause. There are things that we believe in and we will always believe in. I’ll allow the commentary to do what the commentary does, for us it will always be our Labor values that drive us forward.
QUESTION: Is it embarrassing that some state and territory leaders don’t want your assistance in helping them to campaign, for instance in Western Australia?
PM: I actually made some comments about this yesterday. I mean, state campaigns turn on state issues. People who vote in state elections and territory elections, Australians called on to vote in those elections, know what they’re voting for. They know the level of government they’re voting for.
QUESTION: Do you anticipate federal implications from the Melbourne by-election?
PM: Look it’s a state campaign that’ll turn on questions for the state. People in Melbourne, you don’t want to insult their intelligence, that would be very unfair. I know we’re in Townsville and maybe people don’t mind hopping into the people of Melbourne, but the people of the state electorate of Melbourne are smart enough to know that they are voting in a state by-election for someone who will represent them in the state parliament.
QUESTION: Will the G20 Summit actually be advantageous to Brisbane, given that we’re spending millions of dollars to potentially see images of protesters beamed across the world.
PM: Oh it’ll be hugely advantageous to Brisbane, and to Queensland. It’s a coup for Australia to get this meeting in Australia. We went on a campaign to secure it and I was delighted when I went to the G20 in France to come back with the agreement of the G20 that it would be in Australia.
This is a very big thing for our nation. It enables us to have the leaders of the top 20 economies come to Australia, it enables us to put more of our stamp on riding the future of the global economy. So it’s a very important moment for us.
And it will be a very important moment for Brisbane and for Queensland to have the leaders of the world come and gather here to have them familiar with this place, with Queensland as a result and for each of them to go back to their own nations I’m sure, singing Queensland’s praises and saying to anyone who will listen, what a great place it is to go and visit.
QUESTION: You mentioned the Finance Ministers will meet in a regional centre. Campbell Newman wants that to be Cairns. Where would you like it to be?
PM: Well, we’ll be going through a process to deal with that to make the necessary assessments about capacity to host such a meeting. It’s a sizable meeting too.
The G20 attracts the leaders, but it attracts 4,000 people who come to support or to associated events. It attracts around 3,000 of the world’s media.
Now the Finance Minister’s Meeting is of a smaller scale, but it is still a very significant meeting, so we’ve got to do the due diligence to see who’s got the best ability to host it.
QUESTION: Could it be in Toowoomba by any chance?
PM: We’re going to be looking through regional Queensland. I’m not going to be in the business of ruling things in and ruling things out. But as I think you saw with the selection of Brisbane, there are some logistics and capability questions that need to be analysed properly.
QUESTION: Just returning to the carbon tax, are you concerned that the ACCC has reportedly received 600 complaints and are investigating 20 businesses?
PM: Well the ACCC itself has said that this is a modest number of complaints. And I would make the point, if anything the Opposition had said about carbon pricing was true, if one thing was true, you would have expected Australians in their millions to be ringing the ACCC and complaining.
I mean imagine if Gladstone, Whyalla and a series of other townships had been wiped off the map on 1 July. The ACCC would have been getting calls of complaint in the millions.
We’ve had carbon pricing now for over a week, around 600 complaints, I think the story that’s telling you is how ridiculous the fear campaign’s been.
QUESTION: The ADF, its released names of ten senior members of the ADF who it says is implicated in cover-ups. Is that concerning, have you seen that report?
PM: Look I am very concerned about all of the material that is in the DLA Piper review. We, as a Government, ordered this review following the Skype incident at the Defence Force Academy.
The ordering of the review has enabled people to come forward who have got allegations – many of them go back decades – but the material is truly shocking and disturbing.
We’re now working through the Minister of Defence to find what’s the best thing to do given this material is now there in the possession of the Government, and of course the community’s had the ability to look at it too.
QUESTION: Will you be looking at the Bruce Highway anytime at all when you’re in North Queensland?
PM: I am very familiar with the issues on the Bruce Highway, very familiar, and we’ve got some great Queensland representatives who make sure that I stay nice and familiar with the issues on the Bruce Highway.
We’ve been a big investor into the Bruce Highway, we’ve been a big investor into infrastructure in Queensland. If you do the figures per head, we’ve effectively doubled what used to be spent by the Howard Government on infrastructure up here.
Now there’s always more to do, but we are proud of our record in basically doubling the amount of money going into road, rail and ports around the country. And certainly we’ve been investing in the Bruce Highway. But for the continuing issues there, I’m kept in very good touch by our Queensland representatives and I’m very well-aware of them.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, we learnt today that the unemployment rate rose in June, last month, are you concerned?
PM: There was a 0.1 per cent increase to 5.2 per cent. What that means is by the standards of the world, we continue to have a low unemployment rate.
We were talking just a moment ago about the G20. When I sit at that G20 table, and talk to my counterparts from around the world – whether it’s the President of the United States, whether it’s the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, whether it’s any number of the representatives who are in European economies – they would literally do anything to have the same economic story and statistics as Australia.
It’s one of growth, it’s one of continuing low unemployment, it’s one of strong public finances, it’s one of strong banks. We are triple-A rated by the three global credit agencies for the first time in our nation’s history. This is a good track record and achievement for our economy, and we should all be proud of it because we built it together.
QUESTION: The Bali bombings, the survivors coming back, someone suggested that the Federal Government funds their flights and stuff like that for the anniversary. Have you had any thought about that?
PM: Yes, we’re working on this. We are moving towards the 10th anniversary of the Bali bombing – the bombing in which so many Australians lost their lives. It’s going to be a very significant time of commemoration and reflection for the nation.
A number of the family members of those who lost their lives will want to be in Bali at the commemorative events there, and as a Government we will be providing some assistance for family members.
The details of that are still being worked through and determined. But as soon as they’re available, they will be made available to family members.
Thanks very much.