news Former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has made a factually inaccurate statement regarding the Coalition’s rival National Broadband Network policy, falsely claiming that much of his electorate will see “zero upgrade” from the policy, when in fact the Coalition’s plan covers 100 percent of Australia, as does Labor’s own.
On Tuesday this week the Coalition published its long-awaited rival NBN policy. The policy promises Australians download speeds of between 25Mbps and 100Mbps by the end of 2016 and 50Mbps to 100Mbps by the end of 2019, at a projected reduced total cost of $29.5 billion. Unlike Labor’s NBN project, it will make extensive use of fibre to the node technology (where fibre is rolled out to neighbourhood ‘nodes’ and much of the existing copper network is maintained), but will also utilise fibre to the premise, satellite and fixed wireless solutions in some areas. Like Labor’s own policy, a core feature of the policy is that every Australian will see some upgrade to their infrastructure.
However, on Twitter yesterday, Rudd — one of the original architects of Labor’s own policy — stated: “Re: broadband, I live 5km from Bris CBD. Even here broadband is a problem. Under Abbott, much of my community gets zero upgrade.” The tweet was signed ‘KRudd’, meaning it was posted by Rudd himself and not a member of his office.
Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull immediately responded to Rudd’s false claim, stating on Twitter: “Not correct; Our plan will improve your area’s bband speeds by taking it from ADSL to VDSL – most would have 50 megs – 25 is the minimum.” He added in a follow-up tweet that 25Mbps was the minimum speed which the Coalition was guaranteeing under its predominantly fibre to the node plan — but that VDSL had the potential to deliver much higher speeds for “most customers”.
In this case, Turnbull is factually accurate in that the Coalition’s broadband plan will indeed see much of Rudd’s electorate upgraded to fibre to the node technology over the next three years, with the move having the potential to boost the download speeds of many residents and businesses from ADSL levels (up to 24MBps, but usually significantly lower) to speeds above 24Mbps and eventually above 50Mbps.
Delimiter has contacted the office of Kevin Rudd to invite the Labor backbencher for a response to the issue.
The news comes as misrepresentations have plagued both sides of politics when it comes to the NBN debate over the past week. In another example, on Thursday Turnbull and Abbott attended a launch at the Marcus Oldham College in Geelong. At the event, Abbott used Twitter to state: “With press + @TurnbullMalcolm at Marcus Oldham College Geelong. Under Labor they get no NBN. A priority under us.”
However, as Communications Minister Stephen Conroy pointed out shortly afterwards, Marcus Oldham College is actually scheduled to receive fibre under Labor’s NBN plan — like the Coalition’s plan, a key feature of Labor’s NBN policy is that every premise in Australia will receive some form of upgraded broadband infrastructure — whether it will be fibre to the premise, wireless or satellite. Both policies feature a ‘ubiquity’ component.
The chief financial officer of Marcus Oldham College, Tony McMeel, has since issued a statement explaining the issue. “I confirm today that I made enquiries with Telstra Business on behalf of the College and was advised that we would not be receiving the NBN in the current NBN rollout,” he said.
“One of the College’s directors attended an NBN Co information session run by the City of Greater Geelong earlier this year and was given the same advice by the NBNCo representative. Telstra advised that if the College wished to secure fibre optic cable to deliver high speed broadband, a cost of approximately $25,000 would need to be paid. Telstra made it clear that any such fibre delivery would not be part of the current NBN rollout.”
However, McMeel’s comments only pertain to the current NBN rollout plans, which currently extend over the next three years. NBN Co is progressively revealing its rollout plans and will cover the entirety of Australia by the time its network rollout is completed, around 2021.
The FUD is flying from both sides at the moment. In this case, it’s not quite possible to conclusively say whether Rudd was consciously “lying” about the Coalition’s NBN policy, as we don’t have knowledge of how much Rudd precisely understands of the policy. However, what we can say is that he did misrepresent the Coalition’s policy, and should correct his error.