TRANSCRIPT: Weekend Sunrise, Saturday 21 May





ANDREW O'KEEFE, PRESENTER: The NBN has agreed to destroy photos taken by a staff member while present during the Australian Federal Police raids on the office of Senator Stephen Conroy and homes of an ALP staffer as part of its investigation into leaks about the NBN.

ANGELA COX, PRESENTER: The AFP has denied any political interference but the raids have added some extra spice and intrigue to the election campaign. Joining us to discuss that and other issues are Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia, Josh Frydenberg and Opposition Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek. Morning to you both. Josh first to you, it's hardly surprising that the hash tag #NBNGate is trending. There's now reports Communications Minister Mitch Fifield knew about the leaks months ago. Josh, this is a pretty bad look for the Government, isn't it?

JOSH FRYDENBERG, MINISTER FOR RESOURCES, ENERGY AND NORTHERN AUSTRALIA: It is not a bad look for the Government at all because everybody understands, including the Labor Party from their own experience, that the Australian Federal Police are an independent law enforcement agency. They make their decisions independent of any political interference and any suggestion of otherwise is a slight on the hard-working men and women in the Australian Federal Police. So you've seen a statement from the AFP, it's been very clear in that statement, that they took this decision themselves. As to the timing, that is a matter for them to answer and as for Mitch Fifield and his discussions with the NBN, ministers talk to their key stakeholders all the time.

O'KEEFE: But Josh, just on the look of it, yeah sure, people might understand that the AFP operates independently, they are not taking orders from the Government but the nature of the material, even though it was subject to Parliamentary privilege, even though it might be commercial in confidence, it does look like we're just trying to cover up a bad news story. We talk about blowouts, cost blowouts and connection problems, we are not really talking about stuff that would affect the ability to execute the contracts.

FRYDENBERG: But these are decisions for the Federal Police, they have got nothing to do with the political parties or individuals in governments or oppositions. That's how the law enforcement process works. Whether the timing is done in an election or before an election or after, that is completely a decision, Andrew, for the AFP.

O'KEEFE: Okay. We all accept that.

FRYDENBERG: And that's the point. And that's the point

COX: Tanya, what are your thoughts on the timing of this? Because there has been some criticism this is done during the election campaign but could you really expect the AFP to rush in too soon or delay it until after the election just so that you guys didn't look bad?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Let's be really clear. I think the Australian Federal Police do a fantastic job and Labor completely supports the Australian Federal Police doing their duty, and that's all we ever think they do. This is a separate issue. This is - why does the Government want to cover up the incompetent administration of the NBN? This is a Government company discussing with the Minister leaks that show that the NBN has doubled in cost since Malcolm Turnbull was the minister and instead of being complete in 2016 as he promised, it will be complete in 2020. So it's gone from costing $29 billion, Malcolm Turnbull's NBN, to $56 billion and vast parts of the country haven't even seen work start. These are documents, I believe or I've been told, that when Labor was in government were actually regularly published on the Internet. You could just look them up. Anyone could just look them up. But n ow they are secret because the Government doesn't want to know that Mr. Turnbull, who likes to think of himself as an NBN Internet genius, is in fact incompetent. He has incompetently mismanaged the rollout of the NBN. You ask people in regional towns, suburbs, even inner-city areas right across Australia how their Internet connection is and it is stuffed. We've gone from having the 30th fastest Internet speeds in the world to the 60th fastest Internet speeds in the world on Malcolm Turnbull's watch and the Government don't want you to know that the one job he had as Communications Minister, he couldn't do.

O'KEEFE: Alright, Josh, leaving aside the AFP raids, I mean how do we respond to that? The essence of this NBN argument, which is the fact that the cost has blown out and the connectivity is so much smaller than it should be at this stage of the game.

FRYDENBERG: Well Andrew, in fact, the costs have been brought under control by the Coalition government and Malcolm Turnbull.  

PLIBERSEK: That's not true.

FRYDENBERG: Tanya just there misrepresented the reality of the situation because Stephen Conroy, when he was the minister had to hop on a plane with Kevin Rudd to get five minutes to work out the NBN plan on the back of an envelope. Now, they never did a cost benefit analysis, they never did an official business plan and in the 6 years they were in office, they connected only 50,000 premises. Now since we have been in office, we have connected 900,000 premises and now 2 million businesses and households have access to the NBN, and it's of course...

PLIBERSEK: Josh... it’s doubled in cost.

FRYDENBERG: No it's actually, the cost has come down significantly. The costs have come down significantly.  

PLIBERSEK: It's gone from $29 billion under your estimates to $56 billion under your estimates. Malcolm Turnbull said it would cost $29 billion. Now he says it will cost $56 billion. The cost of the old copper network has vastly blown out. You have bought a dud of an old copper network from Telstra. You've got to spend vastly more fixing it than you ever thought and people will still get worse Internet connections than they were promised. Under us, they'll have fibre to their homes.

FRYDENBERG: Well Tanya, the figures [inaudible].

O'KEEFE: We are going to have to leave it there unfortunately, team. I do distinctly recall having this exact conversation shortly before the last election so it's interesting to see that the NBN is still such a hot button issue. But Josh Frydenberg and Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

PLIBERSEK: Enjoy the lovely Kimberley, won't you.

FRYDENBERG: And I will be up there next week.

O'KEEFE: We shall.