Govt grilled on Tassie NBN uptake

In Parliament Question Time today, the Federal Government grilled on the number of customers signed up to the National Broadband Network (NBN) in Tasmania.

In Parliament Question Time today, the Federal Government was grilled on the number of customers signed up to the National Broadband Network (NBN) in Tasmania.

Julia Gillard

Treasurer Wayne Swan and Prime Minister Julia Gillard in parliament today. (Screenshot by Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

Member for Bradfield and former Optus director of corporate and regulatory affairs Paul Fletcher quoted iiNet CEO Michael Malone, stating that demand to be hooked up to the NBN in Tasmania was "zero", before asking for exact figures on take up of the NBN in the Apple Isle.

"Will the minister advise the house exactly how many customers are currently paying for NBN service in Tasmania and how much they are paying on average," Fletcher asked Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese acting on behalf of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

"With regard to the precise number of customers in Tasmania for a particular service, I will get back to the member," Albanese responded, taking the question on notice.

Albanese later confirmed earlier reports that uptake of the NBN in Tasmania was around 50 per cent.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said history will record Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's claims that the NBN will be a "white elephant", along with famous examples of misjudging the future demand for technology.

"Human history is divided into those who embrace the challenges of the future and those who are stuck in the past. Thomas Watson, the chairman of IBM, said in 1943 'I think there is a world market for maybe five computers'," she said.

Addressing calls for a cost-benefit analysis on the $43 billion project, Gillard said significant study of the benefits of the NBN was already part of the 500-page McKinsey implementation study.

"It would make War & Peace look like an airport novel," she said.

Malcolm Turnbull, in his first question in Question Time since taking on the role of shadow communications minister, asked Treasurer Wayne Swan to explain the nature of the risks of the NBN warned by Treasury when the government returned.

"What the [advice] said to the incoming government was simply this: it said 'a more competitive and hence more efficient and productive telecommunications sector will come from the NBN'," Swan replied. "The Treasury is very supportive of the NBN and has been involved since day one."

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