Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has again called for the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network project to be scrapped, claiming Queensland residents suffering in the wake of the state’s catastrophic floods would rather have transport infrastructure rebuilt than the “interactive gambling” that he said the NBN would offer.
In a press conference yesterday, the Coalition leader said he agreed Australia needed broadband — but it didn’t need “a $50 billion white elephant”, which he said was likely to result from the creation of a new government-backed monopoly broadband infrastructure provider.
“So, look, I’m against the NBN and I certainly think that as far as the general public of flood ravaged Queensland and Victoria are concerned, what they want is restored roads, restored railways, bridges that you can safely cross. They don’t necessarily want more interactive gambling or more movie downloads,” he said.
The comments echo previous Coalition remarks on the infrastructure project. After the Labor Federal Government released NBN Co’s business case in late December, Abbott claimed the NBN would primarily be used to fuel the nation’s passion for high-end video and gaming content.
“It’s pretty obvious that the main usage for the NBN is going to be internet-based television, video entertainment and gaming,” the Opposition leader said at the time. “We are not against using the internet for all these things, but do we really want to invest $50 billion worth of hard-earned taxpayers’ money in what is essentially a video entertainment system?”
However, comments by Prime Minister Julia Gillard this week appear to suggest the NBN will go ahead as planned in Queensland.
“More infrastructure is already needed to nurture the mining boom and support economic growth, so the Government is investing in long lived economic assets and infrastructure like high speed broadband, ports, roads and rail,” the Labor leader said in a speech to the National Press Club this week.
“So 2011 remains a year when I will be delivering the national broadband network, creating more opportunity through education reforms and improving health care as well as a year when I will make long-term decisions on workforce participation and a carbon price.”
Union representatives, too, have come out to back the NBN — with Peter Tighe, national secretary of the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union, telling the ABC’s PM program it was “abhorrent” to use the current situation in Queensland to run a political argument about what was appropriate infrastructure.
And NBN Co chief Mike Quigley also backed the union’s comments on the same program, saying it was “a little misguided” to say there was a choice between deploying the NBN or spending the money on other infrastructure.