Coalition NBN policy: Costed or not costed?


blog Call us sticklers for the truth, but it does seem rather like Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been jumping back and forth recently over the issue of whether the Coalition’s rival National Broadband Network policy has been costed.

Those of you with memories of even passing strength will recall that in mid-August, the Financial Review quoted Turnbull as stating that the Coalition had a fully costed policy document “ready” to be released, based along similar lines as the fibre to the node rollout currently being implemented in the UK.

But just one short month down the track, Turnbull appears to have changed his mind about the issue completely, telling the ABC this morning that the Coalition “not in a position to be able to fully cost its policy before the next election” (that’s a paraphrase by the ABC). Aunty then quotes the Earl of Wentworth as saying (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“Our policy will be costed in the sense that we can provide very hard, reliable estimates of the relative cost of our approach, but we are not in a position to provide an alternative, if you like, to the NBN Co’s corporate plan because we simply don’t access to the contractual information.”

Personally, I don’t really care that much whether the Coalition’s NBN policy is “fully costed” — whatever that means in today’s political environment (I assume it means handing over a document to the Treasury to be verified, but I’m not sure what degree of legitimacy that would confer on it). What I personally want to know is some key financial details about the Coalition’s rival NBN policy — details such as what its capital cost will be, what its projected return on investment will be, how it will take into account the NBN’s existing contracts and infrastructure and so on. You know. The little things. Rational people tend to be a stickler for things like that.


  1. For someone who is an alternative popular PM, Malcolm needs to have his policies on Broadband costed.

    Because the way things are with the Coalition (SA LNP, Newman cut costings, NSW cut costings, LNP in NSW war with courts).

    Renai, your being Naive, and also ignorant.

    People want their leaders to have things justified – otherwise, like in NSW and in QLD is experiencing – a rampage.

    Otherwise the Coalition are just doing FTTN to justify their lack of spending in this area since they privatized Telstra.

    • Given the scrutiny and scourn piled on the existing NBN I’m sure Mal will not only get it fully costed but also will ensure a fair and un politically biased CBA is carried out. Because at the end of the day it’s not about LNP or Labor, it’s about the Australian people and what’s best for us.

      • If there one thing you can say about the current LNP opposition is that they don’t care about good policy for Australia only about getting elected into power. Just look at the boat people policy with them refusing the offer to take part in committee to find the best policy. They said no for no other reason than it wasn’t their idea. That is their primary objection to the NBN it isn’t that the policy overall is bad but that it wasn’t their idea so they have to reject it or their refusal to give LNP member the opportunity to vote as per their own discussion on gay marriage legislation. Those actions do not speak well for party supposedly doing the right thing for Australians.
        If any Labor policy was truly bad for the country they could get it stopped because last I checked Labor don’t have a majority. If any labor policy is bad for Australia it is just as much the LNPs fault for failing to do their job in a parliament that they as just as much control over as Labor.

  2. “Our policy will be costed in the sense that we can provide very hard, reliable estimates of the relative cost of our approach”

    That sounds like he will just point to the UK and say it costs a third.

    • It is generally accepted that the maximum ADSL2+ speeds expected in the real world, as opposed to the laboratory, is 24 Mbps. Nevertheless Malcolm Turnbull is quoting speeds up to 80 Mbps under FTTN. This figure was repeated again in tonigh’t episode of 7.30 Report.

      How is this promise, or anything like it, going to be achieved without upgrading most of the existing but ageing copper. And if unknown and unspecified amounts of copper is to be upgraded, how do we know his promised build cost savings can be delivered?

      • “Nevertheless Malcolm Turnbull is quoting speeds up to 80 Mbps under FTTN. This figure was repeated again in tonigh’t episode of 7.30 Report.”

        Funny that. It’s very deliberate language I am certain. Remember last year he was claiming 50-60mbps and now the new high for FttN has magically jumped to 80mbps. It doesn’t matter if anyone or how many actually end up getting the claimed speeds what Turnbull is trying to achieve here is to create a perception that if FttN can achieve almost fibre speeds that should be good enough and anyone arguing against his gimped version of the NBN is being unreasonable. Forget future speeds like 1gbps, you don’t need them. Turnbull says so.

  3. I note that Malcolm is doing a survey on internet needs so they can decide on their policy.

    “A key element in our approach is to enable us to identify and prioritise those areas with the least adequate services.” [] I know I am not real smart but I would have thought that this information is already pretty readily available and we hardly need another survey to identify the problem areas.

    It would seem to me that if any plan existed it would already have looked at where the demand was and the most cost effective way to meet that demand. If they don’t know this then the Coalition don’t have a plan. It is incredibly difficult to provide cost estimates for an non-existent plan.

    As to the claims of a “fully costed plan” either the media was lying or Malcolm was lying.

    My choice is Malcolm Turnbull until I see definite proof to the contrary.

    • Yeah, it’s called the Telstra Wholesale Documentation.

      And various DSLAM Deployments, Mobile Deployment locations.

    • A politician who lies? What a disgusting concept, because we all know that they all are 100% truthful.

  4. Bingo. And if they did have a “fully costed policy” already, and they claim it’s been rendered wrong because of how much NBN Co is supposed to suck, then surely they can release it to further prove how much they think NBN Co sucks.

    But maybe, and that’s quite likely the other possibility they have no idea on how to even do a back of the napkin calculation of the basic details of their plan. And that’s most of what the zealots are looking for. Just a quick outline on what billions are spent where and when and how that money will flow back. But right now, it’s just Malcolm Turnbull saying that they can’t account for how they’d need to spend every single dollar, so they won’t publish even the outline of a policy (that’s already supposed to exist), yet claim on the same day that “@dclark_spc @sunriseon7 @mwyres those qns have been answered many times”.

    When they haven’t.

    And which is why even Newscorp is now saying “THE coalition will provide a cheaper, more affordable broadband internet network – but it won’t tell us how until after the next election.”.

    In fact, the only actual statement about any plan apart from having a fully costed plan and not having a fully costed plan since the 2010 election was to call Citigroup’s plan all wrong and “a complete work of fiction”, that was created without his consultation.

    • NBN – $1 = cheaper.

      That would not be a difficult outcome for the Liberals to acheive. Even maintaining the existing plan this could be done by simpy winding back the scope a fraction.

      • Plus delivery that’s 1 day sooner makes it faster.

        Turnbull slipped up and now he’s trying to BS his way out of this but it’s too late. He’s on record as saying he’s got a fully costed model.

        He’s on record saying his Atomic Banana will be faster and cheaper, but now the whole cheaper aspect is brought into question. So it’s that he wants us to vote for him because his Atomic Banana is waaaaaay better than FTTP plus we’ll get all these fridge sized cabinets around the suburbs and they’re tops.

  5. Um, should not this survey, and the costings, been carried out months, if not years ago!?

    It’s not like this was sprung on the Libs last week!

    Kind of pathetic after the bagging Labor received from the Libs over costing of the NBN.

    Also, the survey is a very poor idea. Yes it may give an indication of where work is needed, but it is hardly a definitive service analysis.

    Methinks the survey is more to give the impression that the Libs are thinking of you, rather than using the survey in any actual service provisioning plan.

    • Its a gimmick, nothing more. The irony is, the areas that they claim they will sort out first are the ones least likely to fill out a survey.

  6. If Tony Abbot’s plan in appointing Turnbull as shadow communications spokesman, was to make his rival Turnbull look like an absolute fool, then the plan is working well.

  7. Announcing the NQNBN. Not quite the NBN. nearly as many people, nearly as fast and it might cost less.

  8. I want to see what they are offering before the election, and with a Sacred Oath from Abbott and Tunabull to be written in blood at St Mary’s Cathedral witnessed by Pell and a church full of media and people.

  9. So they’re just going to run with the “it’s cheaper” line and hope we swallow it.

    Who’s it going to be cheaper for though? End users? The government? Telstra? Who is saving money?

    I’ve seen the NBN retail plans, they’re cheaper than my ADSL. So I guess it’s not cheaper for me.

    I’ve seen NBN Co’s corporate plan, they’re going to make a profit. How do you get cheaper than that? Make more profit?

    Time to tell us what to expect Mr Turnbull. What speeds (UP and down), what are retail prices, and what return on investment will you get for your money?

    • At this stage I think the smart thing to do is totally ignore everything Turnbull says until he comes up with something more substantial. All of his claims with regards to speed, price and the rest are dubious at best unfortunately the problem is if we are fooled by these clowns and vote them in by time they start making a compete mess of it it’ll be too late and we’ll be stuck with their FttN patchwork for a very long time.

      • “At this stage I think the smart thing to do is totally ignore everything Turnbull says until he comes up with something more substantial.”

        Sorry, but to ignore him allows him to maintain the Coalition policy farce. He has to provide facts and be asked hard questions. To do otherwise allows him to continue with his vaporous waffle.
        Hopefully Leigh Sales will ask him some hard questions on ABC 7:30 tonight.

  10. I like the way Malcom uses “many people believe’ to spread untruth. As in the following:

    “NBN Co’s… target is 10 years, [but] there are many people in the industry very close to the NBN who believe it is more likely to take 20 years,”

    Well let’s try that one on you Malcolm:

    There are many people in parliament very close to the Liberal party who believe that you are a liar, a thief, impotent, a child molester, a drug lord…. Do I need to go on?

    You’re not? but, you know. many people believe you are.

  11. Yes, because going to an election without a Broadband policy worked so well for them last time #headdesk

  12. More seriously, how can anyone possibly say that something is going to be cheaper without knowing its cost .

    There is also the issue of sheer cost versus good value. Let’s say that the coalition’s solution turns out to be 5 billion cheaper, would the savings justify larger future upgrade costs?

    But I am sure Malcolm will come with costs derived from more densely populated countries. Once disingenuous always disingenuous.

    • Indeed a 1978 Datsun 180B is much cheaper than a new Nissan Pulsar!

      No further questions… done!

  13. Are you casting dispersions on Mr Turnbull? He worked long and hard to get those many people (well a couple, well, the guy who fitted the foxtel box and the guy at Dick Smith who sold him a cover for his iPad). He must have talk to hundreds of “knowledgable” people before he found a few bunnies.

  14. I have to laugh. Seems finally the LNP is under a bit of pressure on the policy front and well the mad Monk and Co seem to have no clothes.

    Fully costed ready to go, excep[t we have todo a CBA before we enact the plan, and well you know we can’t fully cost it ’til we see the contracts.

    I can hear MT telling TA “Yes yes, it’s on the back a 1st class napkin I doodled on during a fact finding mission. We’re ready to go al right”

  15. What I find amusing is the fact that by targetting areas with poor broadband service first, increases costs of rolling out an NBN. of course they havce no intention of rolling out an NBN, just fixing blackspots with bandaids, much like what has been done with roads and other infrastructure.

  16. Hmmm…

    First: “Our policy will be costed in the sense that we can provide very hard, reliable estimates of the relative cost of our approach”

    They follow this with saying that the reason they can’t cost is that they don’t know the financial cost of the NBN…

    So in essence, “we don’t know any of the figures or time frames involved, but we guarantee that ours is better…trust us!”

  17. If you can’t state what your proposal is going to cost – as you dont know all the financial costs of the nbn , then how can you state that the current nbn plan is bad..?

    if you can slam something for being too expensive -you know the costs , if you know the costs – submit your own plan.

    I’m starting to think the liberal party is linked to the republican party in the states – especially with the “we will reveal it after the election”….

    • Funded by and looking after the same interests, definitely not looking after the Nations Best interest

  18. I believe the Productivity Commission does this type of costing, not treasury (but I could be wrong).

    I suspect they’ll use a lot more cabinets than the actual NBN, he said that “most” people (80-90%?) would be able to get between 50-80Mbps but they’d need to be under 1000M from the cabinet (which would be fibre in, but copper to the home). This of course doesn’t take in to account degraded copper, water in the lines etc.

    It’s all very vague, un-costed and couched in typical political speak (to easily back away from).

    At the end of the day though, the Libs plan gives 20+ billion dollars to private companies with no return that I’ve heard of (as they are mostly subsidies to get private enterprise interested in servicing the low/no return areas), where the ALP’s plan gives a tidy RETURN on the loan of 37 Billion…

    Who in their right mind would be happy to go with the Libs plan given it’s cost??????

    • He needs to be called on that speed breakdown. In the UK the experience is 75% get less than 50Mb

        • The mean is this average speed obtained when all the responses are added and divided by their number.
          The mode is the middle number regardless of extreme numbers on either side. So if you have 5000 responses, the mode will be the value of the 2500th response when the responses are ranked.
          The mode is the number that comes up the most.

          Hope this helps

          • Thanks Observer. I know what the definitions are.

            I just want to know what the numbers are. If 24 meg is the top speed for ADSL2+, does it take a cabinet at each front gate to deliver 24 to each house? And 24meg is less than 50 meg in Tony Abbott speak. Or 80meg for that matter.

  19. Very disappointed with Malcolm on 7.30pm last night, very unconvincing performance.

    Even my wife, who knows nothing about technology commented that he doesn’t sound like he knew what he was talking about, and he sounded like a used car salesmen during his ‘NBN’ pitch.

    He was much better when he talked about politicans in general and the decline standard of question time. Obviously stuff he knows about and is comfortable with talking about.

  20. “Most experts say it is going to cost twice as much and take twice as long”. Malcolm Turnbull on 7.30 Report 24/9. It’s on the record. It would be interesting to know who these experts are. The same ones who deny global warming?

    In the same interview. “Trust in politicians has never been high”. Has the time come to cease interviewing them?

  21. With performances like Malcolms last night, that trust is only going to head lower I’m afraid :(

  22. A lot of uninformed comment here. I have just recently begun working on NBN design and construction and from what I have seen so far it would not surprise me to find that there are up to 10% of people who will not get the NBN installed in the first run.

    After 2 years of installation and planning it is still pretty incompetent. In addition I have been told that a change of Government will not be able to change things because contracts have been locked in for 6 years.

    This is a typical Labor Government ploy. You have seen it in most states recently where the incumbent Labor Government has locked in large construction projects so the incoming Government still has to complete them even though there is already a massive deficit to fill.

    Your call folks, send the state/country bankrupt (like Greece/Italy/Spain/Ireland/USA) or stop spending on the costs you can control (wages, pensions, government services etc.).

    • I find your post intriguing. You just got a job with NBN but decry its cost. So, why are you working there?

      Also, your point about other countries’ debt shows how little you understand these things. Australia is a long way from going broke. You have to me madly in love in with the coalition to even believe this rubbish.

      I sincerely hope that what you say about the contract being signed for 6 years is true. It will save us from having a hugely inadequate broadband network.

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