Tue, 14 Jun 2016 - 13:10
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Transcript: To The Point, Sky News

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Let’s bring in Paul Fletcher. Thanks very much for your company.

PAUL FLETCHER: Good afternoon Peter. Good afternoon Kristina.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Nice endorsement for the government’s policy agenda around small business and the entrepreneurial support given like the one Mr Shorten is visiting there that’s grown from single digit employees to 64.

PAUL FLETCHER: Of course we want to encourage businesses to grow and we want to create a favourable policy environment for jobs and growth – that’s why we’ve got a policy to reduce the company tax rate and to extend the number of companies who can get access to that reduced company tax rate. I don’t know if they had time to have a discussion about the company tax rate? I suspect probably not.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: I don’t think they got into that.

PAUL FLETCHER: No, I suspect they didn’t.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Let me ask you though, what has the government been doing over the last 12 months to support small businesses like the one Mr Shorten was visiting to see such massive growth in the number of employees. Obviously, there were measures in the last two budgets.

KRISTINA KENEALLY: These are tough questions Peter. Tough questions.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Raised by Mr Shorten. I’m simply following his lead.

KRISTINA KENEALLY: You’re just putting him under the screws here.

PAUL FLETCHER: Can I make the point, we have had the instant asset write off that was championed by the former Small Business Minister, Bruce Bilson – that was a key feature of the budget last year of course. This year we’ve got a further reduction in the company tax rate for small business and we’re also extending up to $10million the turnover of business that are eligible for that reduced company tax rate – because if we reduce the tax rate on companies that to grow and to generate jobs and opportunities. Can I make one more point…

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Just before you do – that business, well I’m assuming – correct me if I’m wrong, with that massive explosion in the number of employees that Mr Shorten was so proud of – that business would presumably jump past his categorisation of what constitutes a small business for company tax purposes - I’m guessing?

PAUL FLETCHER: I would suspect, not knowing the precise details of that business, but I suspect their tax outlook under Labor is a lot less attractive than should a Turnbull Government be returned. But can I make this other point? The Coalition does not believe that Government does everything. What we aim to do is create an environment within which, people like the owners of that business, and I don’t know much about them, but they appear to be having success, people can take a risk and can capture the returns if they do that. And that’s why, for example, we had an innovation statement in December last year which contained strong tax incentives for additional investments in start-up businesses – because we want to encourage Australian businesses to innovate and to be part of the transformation of our economy – indeed be a key theme of this election campaign is a transition to a strong new economy. We want encourage exporters – taking advantage of the free-trade agreements with China, Korea, Japan. So we’ve got a suite of policies that designed to support and encourage business.

KRISTINA KENEALLY: When are small, medium or large businesses going to have benefit of an NBN? Because I seem to recall Malcolm Turnbull said it would be this year we’d all be enjoying, right across Australia, the NBN speeds on our internet. When’s the coming in your innovation statement, you know, innovative, agile, flexible economy?

PAUL FLETCHER: (Slowly) Okay, let’s talk about the NBN.

KRISTINA KENEALLY: Yeah! Let’s talk about it under the Coalition. When can we get to what Malcolm Turnbull promised?

PAUL FLETCHER: Because Labor apparently says you can double the number of premises that gets fibre to the premises and not one extra dollar of public money will be required. It’s a miracle! Hallelujah! The reality is that all Labor has done has reinforced the people’s memories of their chaotic mismanagement of the NBN when they were in government. Remember, they spent $6 billion – they delivered very little – barely 300,000 premises.

KRISTINA KENEALLY: Was Malcolm Turnbull wrong, or was he not being truthful when he said the NBN would be rolled out in full across Australia this year?

PAUL FLETCHER: What Malcolm Turnbull did was lay out a consistent and credible plan to roll out the NBN. And I remind you that when we came to government there was not one person board with telecommunications experience – we fixed that. We put in a capable board, capable management. Shortly, 25 per cent of premises will be able to connect. By late 2018 75 per cent of premises will be able to connect. By 2020 it will be done. So the NBN is rolling out – we are now connecting more in a month than Labor managed to connect to the NBN in their entire time in government.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But let me ask this. In fairness, Kristina Keneally’s point is right isn’t it? You did promise that all homes would have the NBN by 2016. Now for whatever reason that won’t happen.

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, what we found when we came to government was that things were worse than we had expected. We did a very thorough, comprehensive, strategic review. The company, its senior management team, aided by external consultants and we announced our plans for the multi-technology mix – that’s a combination of fibre to the premises, fibre to the node and hybrid fibre coaxial cable. Now that rollout is proceeding, building momentum. And can I make this point? That the company is very open with its performance. Every week the rollout numbers are reported on the website – and that’s showing a consistent and steady increase in the rollout. Look, it’s very important with the NBN that we get it rolled out as quickly as possible and that as many people as possible have access to those high speeds. It’s important to have uniformity of access. And that’s the conclusion of the cost-benefit analysis that we conducted after coming into government. But it’s also the conclusion of broadband experts around the world. That’s why we are very focussed on getting this rolled out as quickly as possible and one of the key reasons why we chosen a mix that has a lot of fibre to the node is that you can roll out fibre to the node considerably more quickly than fibre to the premises. Of course it also costs about half as much per premises and when you’re talking about 10 million plus premises around the country that you have to connect to this network, that have to be able to access the network, those difference are very important. So that’s why we’ve chosen the multi-technology mix after careful review. And the key point is it is being implanted thoroughly and in a consistent fashion, the company has met its targets eight quarters in a row. Under Labor, NBN was a byword for consistently failing to deliver on its stated plans.

KRISTINA KENEALLY: I was talking to a Labor MP who represents an area that has this multi-technology access, or what some people might just call copper to the home, and telling me that when it rains water gets into the pits and they actually have to send workers in to get the water out of the pits because it messes up the copper technology and people in their homes experience slower internet speeds. Is that the case first of all and shouldn’t we be building technology that, I don’t know, can withstand rain?

PAUL FLETCHER: NBN, as a company, carefully monitors customer satisfaction – and the customer satisfaction levels for people who are on fibre to the premises and fibre to the node shows no discernible difference. It’s also the case that the majority of people are not choosing to purchase the highest tiers – they’re choosing to purchase somewhat lower tiers in terms of the speed limits they are purchasing.

KRISTINA KENEALLY: So there’s no problem with water getting into the pits and messing up copper technology?

PAUL FLETCHER: Look, on a network that serves millions of people around Australia, whatever the technology, there will always be instances where there will be a problem that needs to be rectified. And course you get on and rectify that. That is in the nature of any network that serves millions of people. But the question for Australians who care about the NBN is when is it going to get rolled out, when am I going to have it, how are we going to get the numbers up and the coalition has a reliable and dependable plan to get the NBN out much more quickly than Labor. I mean, Labor themselves have said 2022, we’re saying it will get done by 2020 and of course the speeds that can be delivered, 100 megabits per second on fibre, 50 megabits per second on fibre to the node and in many cases more than that and on HFC there’s readily an upgrade path to 100 megabits per second. I remind you that HFC, that the previous Labor Government was going to hundreds of millions of dollars to have Telstra and Optus just take that perfectly good network out of service. We’ve turned around that particular piece of economic lunacy, along with several other pieces of economic lunacy that formed part of Labor’s NBN plan. We’re getting it delivered.

KRISTINA KENEALLY: Well Paul Fletcher we are out of time, but I’m sure you can catch this on an internet download somewhere in Australia if you want to later on. Thanks for joining us on To The Point.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Thanks for your company.

PAUL FLETCHER: Thanks Kristina. Thanks Peter.