PAUL MURRAY: Now, today we learn via The [Daily] Telegraph, and this is a good one, that – how’s this? – they are spending… and I’ve been on this for a long time but they are going to spend about $24 million, this bloody Federal Government… they’re going to spend $24 million advertising the NBN [National Broadband Network]. Now, you know the TV ads? Well, they’re going to do some Facebook stuff, some more stuff on the internet, there’s cinema ads… every time I’ve been to the movies the past couple of weeks, every session there is guaranteed to be a 90-second version of the NBN ad and, as was proven yesterday, proven yesterday by Malcolm Turnbull, this thing is barely going to be passing, by June of this year, a couple of hundred-thousand homes, so it’s blatant election advertising, just like the superannuation advertising, just like the Schoolkids Bonus. This crap has to stop and, thankfully, the Opposition will do its best to try and stop it. Simon Birmingham is a Liberal Senator and he’s also the Chair of the Senate [Environment and] Communications [References] Committee. Simon, good morning.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning, Paul. Good morning to your listeners.
PAUL MURRAY: Now, no great surprise, these guys are spending money like a drunken sailor but let’s call a spade a spade here. The reason they’re spending 24 million bucks flogging the NBN with our money is because the Labor Party doesn’t have enough money to flog these things. The Labor Party is trying to sell… was trying to sell $1500-a-head tickets for a dinner with Julia Gillard. Guess what? Nobody bought the damn tickets, so they cut the price to $490-something bucks and I think they’re still having trouble selling the tickets, whereas you guys have one dinner and you raise half a million bucks in one night. This is about taxpayers making up the shortfall for Labor fundraising.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, this is absolutely about taxpayers having to fund Labor’s re-election campaign and this is a gross and blatant abuse of taxpayer funds – $24 million, at least, are being poured into advertising the National Broadband Network. Now, let’s be very clear here. Only around 10,400 people are currently actually connected to and using this network, yet they’re running a national multi-million-dollar advertising campaign. It’s just astounding to think that anybody could stand up and credibly justify spending that sum of money marketing something that virtually every Australian is currently unable to even access.
PAUL MURRAY: But also – best case scenario – if Labor builds its NBN, you will have no other choice than to use the NBN because if you’ve got, say, ADSL [asymmetric digital subscriber line] technology, they’re going to yank those lines out of the ground which means you’re going to have to use the NBN anyway, so what’s the point in advertising something that we will have no choice, we’ll have to use it anyway?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: That’s the point, of course, at the other end of this. If – and it’s a very big if – they managed to pull this policy off… and it would probably come with a $90 billion price tag as we’ve exposed this week but, if they pulled it off, it will be a monopoly provider. It would be like Australia Post advertising and saying ‘if you want to post a letter, please use Australia Post’. Well, of course you have to use Australia Post to post a letter and, if the NBN were built under Labor’s terms, the copper cabling will be disconnected, all existing infrastructure will be disconnected, even the current cable laid in the ground will be disconnected in an act of sheer madness and people will simply have to use NBN’s fibre, so, indeed, at present they’re advertising something that nobody can access but, were they to get their way, they’d be building something that everybody would be forced to access anyway, so there is no justification at either end of that spectrum for this multi-million-dollar taxpayer funded advertising campaign except for the fact that Stephen Conroy’s incapable of selling the message himself.
PAUL MURRAY: Well, exactly and he was even out there stupidly yesterday physically laying the cable himself and I love the footage where he’s basically feeding the cable to a worker using sort of two fingers – the poor dear didn’t want to get his hands dirty but, anyway… Look, this is the third issue in a row now, that I’ve just pointed out, where either the public has to do nothing to get the benefit or basically there is no benefit to be gained, because its things like the NBN don’t exist. Now, okay, you’re going to go into the Parliament, you’re going to turn around and you’re going to do a ‘no confidence’ motion. Can you please take back to Shadow Cabinet for me, can you please take back to Tony Abbott, the second thing they should try to do in the Parliament when it comes back is ban government advertising six months out from an election, because these guys are going to spend like drunken sailors and it’s our money, Simon.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, it’s a very fair point, Paul, and I’m sure we will see plenty more Government advertising, sadly, over the coming months and it is all very much designed just to prop up the Labor Party’s vote. You’d have to probably pay the many small business people I talk to… you’d have to pay them to attend a dinner with Julia Gillard, so it’s little wonder that they’re struggling to fund their own campaign but that certainly doesn’t mean that taxpayers should be forced to fund it for them.
PAUL MURRAY: Well, that’s our thing but please pass the message back through to Tony Abbott for me. Good on you, Simon, all the best.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I shall do. Cheers.
PAUL MURRAY: Thank you, mate. Simon Birmingham is his name. He’s a Liberal Senator.