SUBJECT/S: NBN Service Guarantee, GST

PATRICK GORMAN: It’s fantastic to be here in the electorate of Perth today with Stephen Jones, the Shadow Minister for Regional Communications and with Helen Curtis, a Perth electorate constituent and a business owner who lives in Mount Lawley. We’re here to talk about the NBN. I don’t have to convince Australians that the NBN has been a shambles for the last five years. Helen is going to share her story with us in a few moments, and we’re also going to get Stephen talk to us about Labor’s plan. On Sunday, Bill Shorten announced Labor’s Fair Go Action Plan. A key pillar of that action plan was to make sure we build an economy that works for everyone. An economy that works for everyone means an NBN that works for everyone, including an NBN that works for people here in the electorate of Perth. Now, I’m going to introduce Helen. Helen’s going to talk to us about her experience with connecting, or not connecting as the case may be, to the NBN and how it has affected her family and her business.
HELEN CURTIS: My name is Helen Curtis, I run a a small business called Apparatus, it’s an art consultancy. I primarily work from home. We live in Mount Lawley, we have two children six and 10. We have a fairly average family life. We recently moved back into our renovated home in April and we underwent six months of NBN torture. We couldn’t get our network to work basically. We were having continually dropouts. Trying to work from home was absolutely impossible. I have to download files like this, architectural plans – it just wasn’t working. My kids couldn’t even watch the TV program from start to finish. I know that’s a first world problem, but if you have kids you understand it’s not a great thing. Our telco and NBN were playing NBN ping pong and we couldn’t get a result from anyone. It was incredibly frustrating. We ended up going to the ombudsman to  get some kind of result. After six months, of NBN ping pong and torture, we ended up disconnecting from the NBN all together, because it just wasn’t working. We ended up just getting a wireless dish installed. We have a completely bypassed the NBN altogether, because I just couldn’t cope with the problems any more. And I know that my experience is reflected in thousands of Australian families.
STEPHEN JONES: Thanks very much and thank you for sharing your story Helen. Thanks to Patrick Gorman and it’s great to be her in your electorate Patrick and in the city of Perth, and what an energetic MP Patrick has been only a few months after being elected. We’re here to talk about the NBN, It really is an important national project. Done right, it can have an enormous benefit for our national productivity for small and large businesses alike, and ensure we drag our telecommunications systems into the 21st century, Sadly the Abbott Turnbull Morrison Governments have stuffed it up – I can’t be more blunt than that. If Labor wins the next election, we know we’ve got a lot of problems to fix. We know we’ve got to fix the infrastructure that isn’t working. But even if we do that, we aren’t going to fix what Helen describes as the NBN ping pong. That’s what I want to focus on today. Labor’s NBN service guarantee, will ensure small businesses like Helen’s won’t get caught between the bounce between the phone company and the NBN with nobody taking responsibility for the problems they’re ensuring. Thousands of dollars in revenue lost, thousands of hours not spent on running your business, but spent on getting your phone and internet service working. Labor’s NBN Service Guarantee will ensure that doesn’t continue. With strict timelines on installation, on fault rectifications and ensuring that if an appointment is missed than penalties will apply. In fact, penalties will apply on the NBN if these service guarantees these new service standards are not met. We’re fixing the dodgy infrastructure and putting in place a tough new service guarantee, we will ensure in the future small businesses throughout Perth and in fact throughout WA, don’t have to suffer the same sorts of problems, losing thousands and thousands of dollars and hours taking the mind off the game that their job is to do and that is to run their small business. We know that Helen is not alone. Ion the last telecommunications industry ombudsman report, we saw over 5000 NBN related complaints – 2000 of them specifically on installations, that’s a 50 per cent increase on the previous year. This project is too important to stuff up, we’ve got to get in back on track.
JOURNALIST: So the service guarantee, you’ll have strict timelines for what exactly?
JONES: We’ll have strict time lines in place for new installations, for fixing up problems and fault rectification, and we also want to get around the problem where I’ve had, literally hundreds of people tell me, I’ve had an appointment for an installation. I took a day off work. I lost money and nobody turned up and there was no explanation why. That can’t go on. You’re losing money doing that. So strict timelines for that as well and penalties for when the standards aren’t met.
JOURNALIST: What would be an example of a penalty for something like that?
JONES: We will consult with the industry on what a reasonable penalty shall be, but it will be proportionate to the loss.
JOURNALIST: So you’re going to ask the guilty what the penalty should be?
JONES: No, we’ll talk to the industry but we’ll also talk to the consumer groups about what a proportionate penalty shall be. But it should be proportionate to the loss or the inconvenience that has been caused by the NBN doing the wrong thing.
JOURNALIST: Could there be a reimbursement for the person who has lost work that day. If your power goes out and your food goes off you can go to the local power station here and get your money back. Would you look at something like that as well?
JONES: We are absolutely looking at ensuring compensation or ensuring people are put back in the same position they were is a part of Labor’s National Service Guarantee. I want to make this point. We don’t want to pay compensation. We don’t want penalties to occur. We want the service to be installed right the first time and when the service goes down we want it fixed quick smart.
JOURNALIST: And would be it retrospective, so for example if people have suffered a loss under the previous government should you win they wouldn’t be open to getting compensation?
JONES: It won’t be retrospective. Let’s be fair, the Commonwealth Government in fact all governments are very slow to put in place retrospective laws. The NBN and the entire industry is going to be put on notice that a new regime will come into place if Labor wins the next election a new regime will be in place. I just want to give you some perspective on this – the telecommunications sector, the telecommunications industry receives five times the number of complaints the banking and finance industry receives on an annual basis. Banking and finance industry got a royal commission, we’re proposing a tough service guarantee. Service and business and usual can’t continue.
JOURNALIST: What is Labor’s policy around the infrastructure and the NBN? Is it still fibre to the node, or is it fibre to the home?
JONES: We are making it quite clear that everything that is not contracted after the next election - we can’t unscramble the whole egg, that would be a very, very expensive exercise you would end up paying out contractors for work that they’re not doing – but everything that is not contracted we said we want it to be connected through fibre to the curb, which is the new technology getting fibre right to people’s front yard. We know that it is a much more reliable and future proof service. We also know that there is going to have to be a big exercise to go back to areas like Helen’s and fix all the dodgy stuff that simply isn’t working.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask about the GST, Patrick? What’s your position? It’s a bit embarrassing isn’t it? There’s Mark McGowan saying a deal needs to be done, but Federal Labor MPs saying ‘we’re not committed to what the government’s going to do’?
GORMAN: Labor’s position is very clear. We want to see the legislation passed. I’d like to see it done in an urgent and bipartisan manner. When it comes to making sure that no other state is worse off, It hink it’s a very fair request. I am suspicious when it comes to Prime Minister Morrison saying he will give a verbal guarantee but he can’t give a legislative guarantee. If we can resolve this matter this will be fixed within days and that’s a unified position of the State and Territory treasurers and I’m happy to back in that position of the State and Territory treasurers.
JOURNALIST: But it’s not a unified position of the WA Labor Party though is it. You’ve got the State Labor Party calling for one thing and you’ve got Federal Labor MPs saying something different?
GORMAN: We called for a 70 cent floor. We called for it to be legislated. We were ridiculed by the current Liberal Government for it to be legislated. They have now adopted that policy. They are now, as they tend to do, ridiculing our request that we don’t fix the problem in one place and created a problem in another place. The history of this is 20 years long. If Colin Barnett had a bit more foresight when as Treasurer signed onto the GST deal, we wouldn’t be having this debate today. Let’s not create ano9ther problem, 20 years down the track where we are fighting about the GST again. I hope, that by the end of this year, the GST fix is legislated, we have an assurance to the States that they will be no worse off and we can get back to talking about things like fixing the NBN for all Australians.
JOURNALIST: Just to be really clear, if the guarantee amendment doesn’t get up, the Liberals have said they will not support it, will Labor still support the legislation?
GORMAN: I expect that the Liberal Party will come to the party …
JOURNALIST: … they’re saying …
GORMAN: I know what they’re saying. I expect that the Liberal party will eventually accept the amendment that their own people in NSW and Victoria are calling for and I expect that we’ll see the legislation pass in the coming weeks.
JOURNALIST: But your expectations, if they’re not met, will you still vote for the legislation.
GORMAN: I want to see the legislation passed in an urgent and bipartisan manner.
JOURNALIST: But not without the guarantee?
GORMAN: I think the guarantee conversation can go for a little bit further. I think that’s a reasonable thing to happen. We’ve not had Parliament meet …
JOURNALIST: You’re either going to support it or you’re not.
JONES: Can I say something on this? Let’s be fair dinkum about this. Labor led the debate. We want a deal that fixes up Western Australia’s problems, but we also want to ensure that this is a deal that is not just something to get Scott Morrison through to the next election. It’s a deal that doesn’t unwind and that mean shaving national support and support from every State and Territory. The best way to ensure that is to make sure it’s legislated. If we’ve learned anything from politics in the last 12 months, that is it’s pretty dyna mic, everyone’s committed to ensuring the agreement passes through the Parliament. I happen to think the Liberals are going to blink on this. The objective is to sort WA’s problems out.
JOURNALIST: That’s your expectation, but will the Labor Party still support the legislation if it does not include the guarantee?
JONES: Let’s be fair dinkum. You don’t go into a card game and say I’m betting this, but I’m going to tell you I’m going to fold if you call me and you don’t see me. Let’s be fair dinkum about this. We want it legislated. We happen to think that Scott Morrison will do the right thing by Western Australia and by the other States Liberal and Labor.
JOURNALIST: You are confident the Liberals will blink and they’ll insert in the legislation that no state will be left worse off?
JONES: We’re confident the legislation will be passed through in the right way.