Coalition NBN policy “bulletproof”, says Abbott



news Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has reportedly described the Coalition’s National Broadband Network policy as “absolutely bulletproof”, despite the fact that the Coalition has refused to formally cost the plan, and despite it containing a number of controversial assumptions which have been significantly questioned.

Under Labor’s NBN policy, some 93 percent of Australian premises will receive fibre directly to the premise, delivering maximum download speeds of up to 1Gbps and maximum upload speeds of 400Mbps. The remainder of the population will be served by a combination of satellite and wireless broadband, delivering speeds of up to 25Mbps.

The Coalition’s policy will see fibre to the premises deployed to a significantly lesser proportion of the population — 22 percent — with 71 percent covered by fibre to the node technology, where fibre is extended to neighbourhood ‘nodes’ and the remainder of the distance to premises covered by Telstra’s existing copper network. The Coalition’s policy will also continue to use the HFC cable network operated by Telstra and will also target the remaining 7 percent of premises with satellite and wireless.

According to the Coalition’s media release issued in April upon the policy’s launch, the Coalition’s policy is based on the core pledge that the group will deliver download speeds of between 25Mbps and 100Mbps by the end of 2016 — effectively the end of its first term in power — and 50Mbps to 100Mbps by the end of 2019, effectively the end of its second term. According to the Coalition’s statement, the 25Mbps to 100Mbps pledge applies to “all premises”, while the higher pledge by 2019 applies to “90 percent of fixed line users”. The Coalition has not specified certain upload speeds for its network.

Labor has costed its policy at about $44.5 billion, while the Coalition has costed its policy at $29.5 billion. However, both have stated that their policies will eventually pay for themselves, with NBN Co slated to make a return on investment on either. Additionally, the Coalition has claimed that Labor’s policy will actually cost significantly more than $44 billion.

Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has avoided directly answering the question of whether the Coalition will submit its alternative National Broadband Network policy to the Treasury or any other organisation for costing purposes, instead accusing the Labor Government of not being transparent about its own numbers.

The Parliamentary Budget Office has confirmed it had decided the Coalition’s National Broadband Network policy was too complex to formally cost without significant and expensive outside assistance, leaving the veracity of the policy unclear, in the absence of government or private sector examination of it.

Despite this situation, speaking about the policy today, Abbott defended the Coalition’s own numbers. According to the ABC (we recommend you click here for the full article), Abbott confirmed that neither his Direct Action climate change policy nor the Coalition’s broadband plan had been reassessed independently in recent months.

“The national broadband network policy was released many months ago by myself and Malcolm [Turnbull],” Abbott reportedly said. “The Government’s been crawling all over it. No-one has been able to question the costings. It is absolutely bulletproof.”

In the wake of the news that Turnbull would not submit the Coalition’s NBN plan to the Treasury, Communications Minister Anthony Albanese and Finance Minister Penny Wong issued a media release stating that there were alternative costing options which the Coalition could look at. The release, sensationally entitled “Malcolm Turnbull and Coalition hide broadband policy from scrutiny”, sees the pair claim that the Coalition is hiding “a multi-billion-dollar time bomb” in its NBN policy.

“Mr Turnbull claims the Parliamentary Budget Office doesn’t have the expertise to look at his broadband plan, but that doesn’t stop him submitting it to the Treasury and the Department of Finance and Deregulation for costing under the Charter of Budget Honesty,” wrote Albanese and Wong. “This is just another Coalition excuse to conceal their real plans from Australians. If Mr Turnbull has nothing to hide, he should provide his policy for independent scrutiny.”

The Coalition’s background briefing document associated with its NBN policy launch also costs Labor’s policy at $94 billion.

The news comes as debate over the Coalition’s $94 billion figure for Labor’s NBN also continues. The Coalition’s background briefing document states that for the $94 billion figure to eventuate, NBN Co’s revenue must grow much slower than currently forecast, construction costs must be significantly higher than currently forecast, more households must pick wireless alternatives than is currently forecast, and the NBN must take 50 per cent longer to build (an extra five years) than currently forecast.

However, the figure and these assumptions have been substantially challenged. Then-Communications Minister Stephen Conroy immediately challenged the $94 billion claim in April, accusing the Duke of Double Bay of “lying” on the issue. An analysis by your writer at the time published by the ABC showed that, even under the Coalition’s own working, it was unlikely that Labor’s NBN policy would cost anywhere near $94 billion, with the Coalition’s figures being based a worst case scenario for the NBN, where multiple factors went disastrously wrong simultaneously. In addition, fact-checking website Politifact agreed with Turnbull that the NBN was likely to blow out in cost, but said it believed the Liberal MP had overreached somewhat with his $94 billion total. And of course, NBN Co itself rejected the claim.

This week Delimiter published an extensive analysis of the $94 billion claim, finding that there is no basis for believing that it is correct.

Bulletproof? Hardly. Delimiter’s examination of the Coalition’s NBN background briefing paper has found it to be quite full of holes; although I suspect Abbott hasn’t actually hone through the entire thing in detail, so he may not be aware of the nuances ;) With respect to the Coalition’s NBN costing saga in general, I do believe it should be properly costed. As I wrote several weeks ago:

“If Turnbull is going to demand increased transparency from Labor on the NBN, then he should commit to the same, and submit the Coalition’s NBN policy to the Treasury for costing. It’s not enough to say that the Treasury ‘could’ look at it if it wanted to — this is a formal process and one which Turnbull should engage in. As I wrote last week, if the Member for Wentworth believes in the veracity of his policy, what does he have to lose from Treasury taking a look at it?”

Of course, we’re too close to the election now for a costings effort to be conducted on the Coalition’s NBN policy. This will be one that the Coalition will likely get away with, unfortunately.


  1. It really is sad that Australia’s largest ever infrastructure project can be derailed because a potentially incoming party didn’t come up with the idea. I don’t know what the answer is but this sort of situation is not good for anyone.

    • It’s ok! Because their the “better” party anyway! It’s not like “the other party” does anything right, right?

      Because in the end it’s the party that’s more important! I mean how can they benefit us if they don’t do anything in their power to get in power right?

      (yes that was sarcasm)

  2. When your bulletproof vest is made from a blend of
    70% News XXX / Murdoch related interests
    20% IPA (which is in itself 50% Murdoch); and
    10% other “vest”ed interests
    it’s not too hard to believe that one’s policy is bulletproof.

    Unfortunately, the collateral damage is the national interest, our international reputation, the truth, and any faith in our political leaders ability to lead by example with ethics, morality and legitimacy.

  3. Bulletproof alright…. “Australian opposition vows to implement internet filter by default”

  4. Bulletproof? Pigs Arse!

    It’s about as Bulletproof as a Mountain Duck on a Gippsland Lake on Vic duck hunting season open day…

  5. Oh the fun to watch MT in his negotiations with Telsrta.

    How Telstra can give away for free an asset worth billion son their books is beyond me. I can see class action suits should they even try.

    I look forward to sportsbet offering the odds for when the first Turnbull node goes live. If it’s within a year of the election I’ll be quite impressed.

  6. It’s hard to imagine Telstra’s copper being disposed of without a reference to shareholders. And it is equally hard to imagine the shareholders being pleased to giving what used to be its core business away especially since many shareholders paid too much when a Liberal government sold them their shares.

    This will be the chance to return the favour.

  7. I’m sure, having seen a level of utter ridiculousness beyond anything previous, in relation to sematics surrounding the current NBN…as no one can can actually prove that TA’s broadband policy is not literally bulletproof, I’d guess Politifact and MT’s FttN disciples, would ergo suggest that TA’s comment is mostly true!

  8. Haha what a joke. I have written a detailed analysis of the economics of the FTTN plan and the likely impact it will have on government finances and the economy generally. I won’t reprint it here ’cause it’s a bit long,

  9. It is not bulletproof, nor is it bullshitproof.

    The only reason the Coalition can get away with all their lack of transparency is because most of the SMS is acting more like a cheering squad than a scrutinising one.

  10. I’m now waiting for politifact to decide how they will judge this statement.

    Will they take it on its merits, “the network can improve internet speeds, and uses a mix of technologies that defray some of the risks”, or will they judge it literally like they choose to do (gold plated coffee machines), and ask some experts if the FTTN cabinets will survive being shot.

  11. “The national broadband network policy was released many months ago by myself and Malcolm [Turnbull],” Abbott reportedly said. “The Government’s been crawling all over it. No-one has been able to question the costings. It is absolutely bulletproof.”

    The POLICY was released in April, but what about the costings? I dont remember them releasing anything more specific than $29.5b which is hardly enough detail to criticise.

    What gets me is that for them to come up with that $29.5b amount, they would have needed to go over their own numbers pretty thoroughly. Show them to the PBO or Treasury to analyse those numbers. There should be enough detail in them to show how they were arrived at. If there isnt, then $29.5b is just a random number they’ve thrown in.

    • Just like their direct action plan, this is not a costed policy. What they have done is taken a figure just under $30b and said that is all we are prepared to spend. Then, they went on to artificially inflate the cost of the NBN to fit in with their earlier statement that the cost would be a third cheaper.

      • +1

        What I’m getting at though is that as part of that policy, they have decided they can deliver FttH to 22% of the population, FttN to 71%, fixed wireless to 4%, and satellite to 3% and only spend $29.5b to achieve that.

        Thats their policy costing right there.

        So how did they arrive and being able to achieve that rollout in that priceframe? Their own working papers would have to prove its viable so why arent they being submitted for analysis?

        One thing never mentioned is whether their $29.5b cost includes whats already been spent or not. So do they have the full $29.5b to spend, or only (for arguments sake) $20b?

        If they have the full $29.5b, then FttH is actually cheaper, as their costing of $30.4b isnt whats left to spend, but also includes whats been spent to date.

        • What they seem to have done is work out how much of the current NBN hard already planned and contracted out. They, then added, the greenfield estates, took that off the 93% fibre and got 71%. As for the rest, they just copied Labor’s satellite and wireless numbers.

          Where it does not add up, however, is when they have claimed that FTTN could be used more in regional areas.

          It is more than obvious that many of their policies are either mirroring Labor or are without much details. Let’s not forget, however, the Commission of Audit , when everything will be under review. This is a well honed LNP tactic to break promises (Howard, Newman).

  12. Why on earth would anyone even consider fibre to the node, by the time that is implemented it will already be outated. I guess it is in line with Australia being constantly behind in technology. At least they got the costing right, they didn’t purcahse the right thing but the cost was bulletproof.

    • Its the fundamental differences between the parties at play. Labor went into is saying “We’re building infrastructure for the future, the cost is secondary” while the Liberals (with no input from their partners, the Nationals, who benefit significantly from Labor’s plan) went into it saying “We’re spending $30b, whats the best package we can do for that”. If their claim that FttH is going to cost $94b is even remotely right, then there’s no way they can roll out FttH.

      The plan wasnt to provide future proofed technology, it was to commit the Government to a specific amount that they could budget around. And that has some merits. Not sure they make up for the sheer shortsightedness of it all, but it still has some merit.

      So its a choice of “we’ll build for the future” versus “we’ll build to a budget”.

  13. “Delimiter’s examination of the Coalition’s NBN background briefing paper has found it to be quite full of holes”

    Perhaps Abbott thinks the bullets will travel harmlessly through all of those holes?

  14. “The Coalition’s policy will also continue to use the HFC cable network operated by Telstra ”


    Turnbull said it will be opened up to competition. You cannot have half the country with a choice of VDSL/Fibre providers and the other half held to ransom by Telstra

    • Subject to an equitable re-negotiation of these provisions satisfactory to NBN Co and the Government, our goal would be to remove any contractual impediments to the use of existing HFC networks for broadband and voice.

      It’s dependent on “an equitable re-negotiation” with Telstra…I’d love to be a fly-on-the-wall during those negotiations

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