Abbott pledges sleepless NBN vigilance


Tony Abbott has warned Julia Gillard’s government-in-waiting that the Opposition will be “hyper-vigilant” in its monitoring of Labor’s National Broadband Network project for screw-ups.

The revelation this afternoon that rural independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor will support Labor to form government means the NBN is likely to go ahead, with both citing the flagship project as one of the key reasons they decided to support Labor above the Coalition.

But in a press conference held this afternoon after the independents’ announcement, Abbott warned Labor the NBN wasn’t on easy street.

“You can be absolutely certain that the Opposition is going to be hyper-vigilant in this area,” he said. “My strong suspicion is that the NBN is going to turn out to be school halls on steroids.”

The Opposition leader further referred to the potential for the NBN to become an “absolute minefield of waste and incompetence” and said that no government should commit $43 billion in funding — the total anticipated cost of the NBN — without a full cost-benefit analysis, which Labor has repeatedly dismissed the need for with respect to the project.

One aspect of the deal between Labor and the independent duo is that wholesale pricing equivalence will apply between rural areas and the city with respect to the NBN.

Journalists immediately quizzed Gillard on the matter in a separate press conference this afternoon, asking whether the pricing equivalence meant those living in metropolitan areas would be subsidising the bush.

But Abbott did not jump at the opportunity to take Labor to ask on that particular matter. “I understand that it is often necessary to susidise services in regional and remote areas,” he said.” Certainly our policy envisaged subsidies in regional and remote areas.”

The Opposition Leader said the important thing was that the Australian people got the right broadband solution at the right price — which he didn’t think the NBN project represented.

Abbott’s comments came after Gillard invited Australians to reflect on the significance of the NBN project going ahead, with its potential to deliver equivalent telecommunications pricing for the bush with metropolitan Australia.

“Whether you’re on the broadband in Tamworth or on the broadband in CBD Sydney, the wholesale price on broadband will be the same,” Gillard said. “What it means is that every Australian is going to get access to the same wholesale price and opportunity … this is unparalleled since the days when we were talking about building railroads.”

Image credit: MystifyMe Concert Photography, Creative Commons


  1. Tough luck for Abbot. The Australian people want a national broadband network and he cannot oppose a national interest it is the people that hold the power not him and his reluctance to spend but place everything in his pocket.

    • I’m sure if you had a referendum on each and every australian receiving $10k from the government then the majority would vote for it – consequences notwithstanding.

      “he cannot oppose a national interest”
      spoiled brat much?

  2. What’s he going to be hyper-vigilant over? He’s already admitted that he doesn’t understand the “technical” aspects .. even though most 12 year olds do .. and from looking at the Liberal Party offering at the election, their party doesn’t either. More empty rhetoric from an atypical opposition mindset, which is a shame really. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an effective and intelligent alternative?

    • Not all in the liberal / national party don’t understand it, the national party said it was a great idea.

      Barnaby had it all mapped out. Im pretty sure that he wrote up or was part a group that put together an extensive report on ftth.

      It may have even been one of thenational parties policy’s until Abbott stabbed Turnbull in the back, then they dumped it so they could all fall in behind the liberals and appear to be united, on their half arse wireless network

  3. lets hope he seeks to understand it before he starts any crusade to sabotage it. his only understanding about it now seems to be an economists perspective on its costing figures.

    he is simply not fit at the moment to criticise any technical element of the NBN.

  4. He never said he was going to criticise technical elements. He’s going to criticise it’s rollout costs, issues which pop up (possibly like the insulation issues) and finally the takeup of the system as its stages complete.

    Sheesh, no need to get on his back about not knowing much about the technical aspects of it. I would say more than 50% of Australian’s don’t know anything about it other than ‘it’s fast’. Not everyone is a specialist in every field.

    • Yes you are spot on Jesse. Definitely more than 50% of Australians would not know anything about it despite the technology being around since the 80’s. The important thing is Tony Abbott and his team monitor the rollout as there are certain to be huge cost blowouts.

    • Well, that is not entirely true. Abbott claims his Wirelees solution is superior and adquate to provide all our needs for now and future; as oppose to Labor’s NBN Fibre Optic network.

      Isn’t that a criticism on NBN’s fundamental technical design ?

  5. Tony Abbot has not yet been reconfirmed as opposition leader, so comments ascribed to him are currently superfluous.

  6. The problem here is numerous:

    1. The Libs believe that this kind of infrastructure should be built on private money. Howard’s “Surplus or Die” mantra prevent infrastructure that should have been built from occuring is a symptom of this. However, anyone with a passing interest in private/public projects will quickly point out that they tend to be financial disasters, where the state garentees the debts of the private company, and generally they become insolvent rather quickly (especially in NSW)

    2. The privatisation of Telstra was an unmittigated disaster. By allowing Telstra to act like a private company while maintaining monopolistic control of the infrastructure is great if your a Liberal stallwart, for competition and inovation it has been rather dismal. The only good thing to arise is the Next G wireless network. The BT model of chinese walls between wholesale and retail should have been used as a minimum.

    3. The NBN was a result of market failure. Telstra would not play, and the other componies could not raise the capital needed.

    4. Net access is rather poor in rural areas, because it is uneconomical. That is why governments can and shoudl invest in infrastructure, there is a public good that is outside simple profit, and it is unfair for private enterprise to fund it. That is why we pay taxes.

  7. Heres an idea Tony.
    Why don’t you find all the areas of waste first. Lets see how much is wasted on things we really don’t need in this country first. Then help by suggesting a viable way to pay for the NBN.

    I get sick of pollies throwing mud at things without a viable option. His option has shown it fails. Its not just country but many city areas have bad broadband services.

    So here is a novel idea. Help support the NBN by suggesting ways to pay for it and find areas of genuine waste (most of which are purely to win votes and offer very little genuine benefit to society), not infrastructure spending which will not only create jobs.

    Maybe then people will think, gee this Tony Abbott is a decent politician, lets vote for his party next time. Ther public are sick of pollies being negative and not offering alternative solutions.

    • The best way to pay for it is to use it in creative ways which take the pressure and cost off other facilities.

      When it is rolled out, how about throttling it back to the speeds Tony was promising for one day a year and listen for the howls of protest.

      During the next election campaign would be nice.

  8. i really dont understand why the 43bn figure is STILL being used as the metric in this discussion – we already know it isnt, and is over inflated by several billion even before the telstra deal is taken into account.

    well, if abbott wants to use the 43 bn figure as his benchmark for the project, “this much and no further”…. *if* NBN does like it has in Tasmania at 10% under, and the value of the Heads of Agreement is taken into account, i wonder if that actually has the effect of giving NBNco a buffer of some billions over its current projected spend before they hit that 43bn mark?

    i also have to wonder exactly what benefit the oversight of someone who is selfadmittedly ‘no Bill Gates’ is going to deliver. how will you know when something is being done right or not, Tony? im curious, do tell me?

  9. When Tony said he didn’t understand the technical side of things, he meant just that. Nobody can really explain the technical side of this sort of thing unless they work in the field. My son is a Computer Engineer and nobody understands what he’s on about so I can quite understand Tony’s comment on this. As to the costing, I think Tony and many others are qualified to comment. Would you sign off on a new house without having the full costings in front of you? Would you commit to a 43 billion project without having all the costings done? I’m neither for nor against (so long as we can afford it). I would however, like to know exactly what the costs will be and the full benefits associated and where the money is coming from and how will be taxed to cover the charges. More information required.

    • There has been costings, just not what the coalition agrees too, kind of like how the treasury costings of coalition policies didn’t match the coalitions costings of coalition policies.

      I’m completely against going further into debt, but i see infrastructure building projects as essential and things like cash handouts for the middle class not so essential.

      The other thing is it is difficult to predict savings over the long term for a project like this. Broadband is more than just internet. While most homes will never need the speeds being stated, speed really doesn’t cost much. So much so that for the networks I design and build the difference in 100Mb and 1000 Mb is about $100 for a different part. Go to 10,000 Mb and things get pricey, but the fibre stays the same unlike with other technologies with major hadware upgrades required throughout.

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