Prime Minister Julia Gillard has repeated her claim that a Coalition Government would physically remove the National Broadband Networks’ fibre cables out of the ground if it were to take office.
In a statement yesterday, the Labor leader hailed the imminent delivery of fast broadband under the NBN to the Darwin suburb of Casuarina, noting that the $11 billion deal signed between Telstra and NBN Co would accelerate the rollout of the NBN in the Northern Territory.
“This is all in stark contrast to the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott who doesn’t appreciate the potential of the new technology and has made it clear that he wants to “demolish” the NBN,” said Gillard. “Tony Abbott would rip up the fibre out of the ground.”
The comments came despite the fact that the Coalition has repeatedly stated that it would not physically remove the NBN fibre infrastructure, but would instead look to make use of it in its own telecommunications policy, were it to take government. Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull pointed this out today, in a joint statement with Country Liberal Party MP and NT representative Natasha Griggs.
“This is false and has been contradicted by the Coalition on numerous occasions,” said the Liberal MPs. “The Coalition will not rip out any asset that Labor has installed – Labor may waste taxpayers’ money making political points but the Coalition will not.”
“The Coalition’s first priority when it wins Government will be to conduct a rigorous cost-benefit analysis, which will investigate how to use existing infrastructure most efficiently.”
Turnbull and Griggs also pointed out that Gillard wasn’t the first to announce the commencement of the rollout in Casuarina. “Last July, Senator Conroy said construction would begin in the second quarter of 2011, giving the NBN Co two more days to meet this requirement,” said the Liberal MPs.
“That is unlikely to happen because construction contracts – originally scheduled to be finalised in December 2010 – still have not been signed for second release sites in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory.”
Griggs said there had been “little or no progress to date” on the NBN construction in Casuarina, despite the region receiving the “green light” 12 months ago.
The news comes as the Federal Government has come under attack from a new antagonist — the new Coalition State Government in Victoria — over the NBN. The state this week heavily criticised the NBN policy, arguing in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the NBN that the project could see the telecommunications sector’s existing “dysfunctional” market structure replicated and competition put at risk.