Communications Minister Stephen Conroy this afternoon returned fire back on his new shadow, Malcolm Turnbull, accusing the Liberal heavyweight of mindless opposition on the National Broadband Network issue.
Just hours after winning the post yesterday, Turnbull blasted the NBN straight out of the gates, saying it would waste tens of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.
The MP said everything he had seen with respect to Labor’s NBN project demonstrated that the financial investment in the effort could not be justified. He highlighted the NBN Implementation Study produced by consulting firms KPMG and McKinsey and the low levels of take-up of NBN services so far in Tasmania — just hundreds of households so far — as examples.
But appearing on the ABC’s 24 hour news channel this afternoon, Conroy took a swipe back at Turnbull. “He came out and opposed, opposed, opposed. He opposed legislation almost unilaterally — it doesn’t matter what it was, he opposed it all when he became leader — and the same is happening again,” Conroy said.
“We have this piece of legislation, that Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull won’t pass in the parliament and have stalled for 8 months,” the Communications Minister added, apparently referring to Labor’s key piece of telecommunications industry reform legislation that includes provisions for the potential separation of Telstra.
“There will be a slower rollout, there will be a more expensive total cost of the build caused by Tony Abbott — we will have more overhead cabling because of Tony Abbott,” he said.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott this morning told ABC Radio National that no country around the globe had proposed spending amounts on broadband anything like what Labor had pledged to spend with the NBN project, which has had a price tag of $43 billion — although NBN Co expects its deal with Telstra to cut down that cost significantly.
Conroy went on to say that just because England and the United States hadn’t gone for ‘world class’, that didn’t mean the Gillard Government would accept less.
The Coalition has also criticised Labor’s deal with several independent MPs that will see the NBN rolled out in regional areas first — as opposed to city areas. Conroy acknowledged NBN Co would receive a faster revenue stream — due to a higher population density — if the infrastructure hit city areas first.
But the politician said people were making assumptions that the rollouts had all been planned to start in metropolitan areas where that is not the case — only a handful of the first stage rollouts actually were.