Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has described Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as “reckless” and election promises to save millions by dropping a training fund for Telstra employees and other sections of NBN Co’s deal with Telstra as “senseless cuts”.
Yesterday the Coalition issued a PDF document with a list of budget savings measures. In it, it promised to slash $100 million planned for the establishment of a universal service obligation company — USO Co — to replace Telstra’s bush obligations as part of its deal with NBN Co. The Coalition has already promised to scrap the National Broadband Network Company if it takes office but has not yet released its alternative broadband policy.
“Tony Abbott’s cuts put Telstra shareholders at risk of losing a deal worth $11 billion to the company and regulatory certainty,” Conroy said in a statement yesterday. “These senseless cuts demonstrate the consequences of Tony Abbott’s reckless decision to shut down the National Broadband Network.”
Abbottt and the Liberal party will cut the Government’s e-Health project and funding for school laptops as well as the flagship NBN project. In a speech to the press club in May, Shadow Minister Joe Hockey had referred to the NBN as an “expensive white elephant”.
Conroy stated yesterday that the Coalition had no broadband plan of its own, and had failed to produce and implement its own national broadband scheme after being in power for over a decade. “The Coalition has no broadband plan today and in their 12 years in government they had 18 failed broadband plans,” he said.
The press release also reiterated Conroy’s belief that the NBN was “crucial to economic infrastructure” and that Australian businesses will not be able to compete with countries in Southeast Asia and Japan if the project does not go ahead.
Conroy wasn’t the only Labor Senator to go on the attack against the Coalition on broadband grounds yesterday.
Kate Lundy slammed fellow ACT Senator Gary Humphries (a member of the Liberal Party) for what she said was Humphries’ acknowledgement that the Coalition would abandon the pending early stage NBN fibre rollout in the broadband-starved region of Gungahlin in the ACT.
“The long suffering residents of Gungahlin have had to cope with some of the worst Internet services in the country,” she said. “Last week Liberal Senator Gary Humphries was trying to claim credit for the announcement that Gungahlin is one of the early rollout sites for the National Broadband Network on the mainland.”
“The Liberals policy to dump the NBN, without an alternate plan, and with a long legacy of failure in addressing the issue of delivering high speed and quality networks or even a competitive telecommunications industry presents a real issue for all Australians, as well as the 25,000 jobs that will be supported every year through the NBN rollout.”
Humphries had told ABC Radio in Canberra that the NBN was a “very large white elephant”, and that the Coalition would need to work through how locations like Gungahlin would be provided with broadband services — in the wake of the NBN being abolished — if the Coalition took government. He referred to previous broadband plans held by the Coalition when it was in government, noting he was sure they would have solved Gungahlin’s issues “in due course”.
Image credit: Office of Stephen Conroy