blog Some of you may remember that we pushed Opposition Leader Tony Abbott fairly hard a month back on what his camp would do with the National Broadband Network if it won the election currently slated to be held in about three years’ time.
NBN Co’s business case, after all, tells us that by 2013 the NBN infrastructure will have been rolled out to some 1.7 million premises, with most of those receiving fibre directly to their door. It seems preposterous that the Coalition would simply halt the project at that point — leaving millions of Australians with fibre, but most of the nation without.
Well, now we know that’s precisely what would happen. Quoth Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull in an interview with ARN posted today:
We would stop the construction of the NBN, quickly conduct a rigorous cost-benefit analysis, identify those elements in the NBN infrastructure that should be maintained and integrated perhaps into the new separated network company and identify the areas that are deficient in terms of connectivity and prioritise them and make sure they are addressed.
Now frankly, we have no hesitation in describing what Turnbull proposes above as political suicide. Does the Coalition simply expect Australians to simply sit by while it shuts down a project which millions are already receiving direct benefit from? The whole concept is ridiculous — and it shows that Abbott and Turnbull have learnt very little from the 2010 election, in which broadband was a key issue.
In addition, it suggests that Turnbull is deviating from the technically minded position that so many credit him with. By promising to cancel the NBN if the Coalition wins the next election, in the face of public opinion and right in the middle of its rollout, Turnbull is demonstrating a faithfulness to the Liberals’ fiscally responsible dogma that verges on the extreme.
So far I have resisted buying into Labor’s hype that the NBN is Australia’s next Sydney Harbour Bridge. But in this case the comparison is apt. You wouldn’t cancel the construction of the Harbour Bridge halfway through — and neither would you scrap a nationwide fibre rollout right when it it starting to deliver on its long-held promises.
Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull