The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, this week met with the Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to get to the bottom of the progress of the NBN rollout in Tasmania.
``The Minister is clearly well aware of the many problems plaguing the NBN rollout in Tasmania,’’ Mr Wilkie said. ``But I impressed upon him the anxieties and difficulties being experienced by the community and in particular the trouble still being experienced by many contractors.
``I’ve learned there’s still no firm plan for the rollout of the NBN in the Northern Suburbs, lower Sandy Bay and Taroona.
``The rollout needs to happen in these areas and it must be fibre to the premises.
``There should be no winners and losers in the rollout of the NBN and your postcode should not dictate what type of technology you get. Everybody in Denison deserves fibre to the premises and the NBN needs to get on with the rollout.’’
Mr Wilkie was also provided the latest statistics for the rollout in Denison which reveal 10,639 premises have been passed. Of these 2,694 have been activated and 2,250 are passed but not serviceable. Localities with services available include Dynnyrne, Hobart, Battery Point, Sandy Bay, South Hobart and West Hobart.
The rollout statistics also reveal that ``build’’ is underway to pass 6,100 premises in Hobart, North Hobart, Queens Domain, Glebe, Kingston and Bonnet Hill. ``Build preparation’’ is also underway to pass a further 2,400 premises in New Town, North Hobart and Mount Stuart.
Mr Turnbull’s office also provided the following update on the VisionStream contract to rollout the NBN in Tasmania.
• The NBN signed a contract with VisionStream to rollout fibre-to-the-premises connections to around 200,000 premises in Tasmania.
• By mid-2013, VisionStream were facing problems on a number of fronts:
o They shifted subcontractors from day-rates (ie, a set amount paid per day) to a schedule of rates (ie payment for work done). This created significant tension between VisionStream and their subcontractors.
o The issues relating to the handling of asbestos in Telstra infrastructure in 2013 meant that new work was not released to contractors like VisionStream for around 3 months, meaning that workflows were very hard to manage.
o VisionStream sought to renegotiate its rates with the NBN Co, claiming its contract was unprofitable.
VisionStream Bridging Contract
• After negotiations with VisionStream, in December a bridging contract was signed with VisionStream at higher rates than previously agreed to.
• This contract covered 16 Fibre Serving Area Modules (FSAMs) while VisionStream sought to get its processes more efficient.
• As part of this, VisionStream have agreed to work with the NBN a) open its books to see that its spending is efficient and b) to better manage its workforce and construction process.
Issues with Contractors and NBN Position
• Many of the complaints from contractors relate to a) late payment for work done and b) inconsistent work flow and low certainty and c) Low rates of pay.
• From the NBN Co’s point of view, it doesn’t always have much say on VisionStream relationship with third party contractors.
• However, as part of the ongoing bridging contract, the company does have the ability to work with VisionStream to improve its processes.
The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, joined PUP Senator for Tasmania Jacqui Lambie to discuss the economic crisis on the West Coast of Tasmania.
“I applaud Senator Lambie for convening a cross-party conference in Canberra today to discuss the economic and jobs crisis on the West Coast of Tasmania. Senator Lambie, representatives of the Labor and Greens parties and myself all attended,” Mr Wilkie said.
“The only federal politicians not to show up were Liberal Party Senators and Members. This demonstrated an appalling lack of understanding or sense of importance of the effect of recent mine closures on the West Coast and the effects this is having on hundreds of workers and their families.
“I call on the federal and state Liberal Governments to start showing some genuine interest in this matter, rather than going missing in action or just telling workers to ring Centrelink.
“The Liberal Party needs to provide immediate support to these workers, similar to the support provided to former Simplot and Caterpillar staff including immediate financial assistance and the upgrading of their Centrelink status to Stream 3, which brings much enhanced support.
“The Government also needs to immediately reinstate the Local Employment Co-ordinator, whose position was scrapped in the recent budget.
“The state and local governments then need to get serious about the economic problems in Tasmania more broadly.”
A statement on the government’s proposed security changes
The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, commented on the Government’s proposed security changes. Mr Wilkie is a former intelligence official and army lieutenant colonel. He was also a member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
“I accept that there is a need for further security legislation reform, but am concerned that the announcement by the Attorney-General today signals hasty changes without adequate safeguards,” Mr Wilkie said.
“Yes, security legislation including the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 needs to be modernised to deal with new technologies and the changing security environment. And yes, the PJCIS May 2013 report provides a good blueprint for reform.
“However the Government must act on the recommendation of the PJCIS that any reform be handled methodically and include careful stakeholder consultation. Giving the Committee just two months to inquire into these reforms is clearly inadequate, as is the Attorney-General’s suggestion that much of the stakeholder consultation has already been conducted.
“Any reforms must also include effective safeguards. The decision to retain the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor is sound, but there needs to also be parliamentary oversight of operations, strengthened Inspector General of Intelligence and Security oversight, continuing restrictions on those who can issue warrants and a legislated requirement limiting some intelligence operations to being used only when all other options have been exhausted.
“The increase in penalties for the disclosure of intelligence material must also be accompanied by an amendment to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 to ensure protection for intelligence whistle-blowers. Currently intelligence material and intelligence officials are not covered by this legislation.”