news Murdoch-owned newspaper The Australian has published a pre-emptive article strongly attacking Labor’s new National Broadband Network policy, but without including any new information and despite the fact that the policy itself has yet to be released.
The NBN project was initiated by the Rudd and Gillard Labor Governments from 2007, although the best-known Fibre to the Premises version of the network was not formalised as a concrete project until April 2009.
Since September 2013, the Abbott and Turnbull administrations have substantially shifted the model of the network, moving away from Labor’s FTTP model and incorporating the legacy copper and HFC cable networks owned by Telstra and Optus, in a so-called “Multi-Technology Mix” approach which is technically inferior to Labor’s FTTP model.
Labor has not yet released its revised NBN policy, but Opposition Leader Bill Shorten this week said that the party saw the NBN as a “key election issue” and would shortly launch its revised NBN policy. Shorten has previously described Labor’s forthcoming policy as a “hybrid” model that would nevertheless feature a “first-rate Fibre NBN”.
Over the past several days, the Coalition appears to have kicked off a campaign designed to discredit Labor’s management of the NBN, with at least one Liberal MP relying on party-supplied material to claim that “$40 billion was wasted” during its early days.
And today The Australian newspaper joined the election campaign attack on Labor over the issue.
The newspaper published an article this morning entitled “Federal election 2016: Labor NBN model ‘to cost billions'”. Delimiter recommends readers click through to read the full article.
The article contains no new information about Labor’s policy, but instead relies on figures compiled by the NBN company under the Coalition to claim that Labor’s policy would cost between $20 billion and $30 billion more than the Coalition’s existing model.
The article quotes Kevin Morgan, a telecommunications spokesperson and consultant to the Government’s Vertigan Review of the NBN. Among other analysts such as Henry Ergas, Morgan is viewed as a long-time critic of Labor’s original FTTP version of the NBN.
The article also disparages the Fibre to the Distribution Point model which many see as a logical replacement for the Coalition’s controversial Fibre to the Node model, and which Labor is expected to support in its revised NBN policy.
The Australian newspaper emerged during the 2010 and 2013 Federal Election campaigns as a strong critic of Labor’s FTTP model for the NBN, publishing a series of articles strongly criticising the party’s policy and its implementation of the policy in Government. Murdoch stablemate newspaper The Daily Telegraph also published a number of similar articles.
However, the newspaper does not appear to have applied the same level of highly critical coverage to the Coalition’s version of the NBN, despite a series of damaging leaks about the project over the past nine months that have unearthed widespread cost and deployment issues with the Coalition’s model.
In June 2013, veteran telecommunications analyst Paul Budde sharply criticised Australia’s media for not levelling the same “malice” and “vicious media attacks” at the Coalition’s National Broadband Network policy as it had with Labor’s NBN vision, despite the fact that the two policies share a great deal of similarity.
“What amazes me is that, with the Coalition now supporting the NBN, the attacks on the NBN by the above mentioned press have slowed down considerably,” wrote Budde at the time.
“We now have an NBN plan from the Coalition that has nothing to do with ‘kill at all cost’ – it is, in fact, very much in line with the government plan. So those vicious media attacks apparently had little or nothing to do with the positives or negatives of the NBN. They were made from a purely political perspective.”