Nationals MP Andrew Broad bemoans rollout of ‘faceless’ NBN

The only government MP not to put his name to a dissenting report rejecting a federal parliamentary paper criticising the NBN has said he believes some of the complaints about its rollout have merit.

The Victorian Nationals MP Andrew Broad said he had not signed a report criticising the findings of a cross-parliamentary committee on the rollout of the national broadband network as he thought it would be “disingenuous”, because other work had prevented him from taking part in much of the committee’s “listening tour” in which it heard customer complaints.

But the Mallee MP said he had seen problems with the rollout first-hand as his constituents struggled to make their services work, and he had been forced to dedicate one of his electoral officers to dealing with the complaints.

“When Telstra used to be government-owned, you had Telstra Countrywide and you had people you could direct people to,” he said. “Now, with NBN, it is sort of faceless.

“You’ve got retailers blaming the service provider and then they get exasperated and they come into our office and you end up having to spend all your time having to sort it out.

“We almost have a person full-time on mobile phone and NBN issues in our electoral office – which is ridiculous – that is not the role of an MP.”

The joint standing committee established to investigate the rollout of the NBN was made up of seven Labor MPs, five MPs from the Liberal party and one MP each from the Nationals, the Nick Xenophon Team, the Greens and One Nation and the independent Cathy McGowan.

It made its first report public on Friday and, in its 162 pages, was heavily critical of the process so far and included numerous reports of how service delivery had gone wrong for customers.

The committee made 23 recommendations, including new regulations for fault repair times, better recourse for customers when things went wrong and a tougher enforcement powers for the regulator to ensure that NBN Co, the company charged with delivering and overseeing the network, acted within reasonable timeframes to fix faults.

But a dissenting report was included from government MPs, who defended both the rollout and how it had been executed, rejecting the need for further regulation.

Broad, the Nationals representative, was the only Coalition MP on the committee not to sign the dissenting report put forward by the chairwoman, Sussan Ley.

He said while he believed there was some politics at play with the committee’s report, he also did not think its recommendations should be dismissed out of hand, including the calls for increased transparency and accountability.

“In the final report there are some good recommendations,” he said. “One of the recommendations I thought was quite relevant to my patch – when communities are told they are going to get something and then they don’t … It is not adequate and not transparent.”

A spokeswoman for NBN Co said it welcomed the report and would look “closely” at the recommendations but said “no large-scale construction project has ever been problem-free”.

“With a workforce of close to 30,000 people digging trenches, hauling cable, climbing poles and going into people’s yards and homes, there are inevitably going to be some issues,” she said. “This is especially the case as the rollout has hit an unprecedented pace, with tens of thousands of homes connecting every week.

“We need to maintain the balance of getting broadband to people as quickly as possible while minimising these problems.”


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