Two of Australia’s highest-profile business executives have taken an axe to the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network policy. This time it’s BHP chairman Jac Nasser and CommBank chief executive Ralph Norris, according to The Australian:
Mr Nasser said although he was not completely familiar with the details of the NBN, the $36bn to be spent on the project was not an appropriate allocation of that level of capital in Australia … Mr Norris said “… as for the NBN, there is a lot of infrastructure being made redundant and you have to ask yourself if that is cost-effective.”
My immediate impression of the executives’ comments is that they have a point. However, it’s a point that has been made many, many times before, in more detail than either Norris or Nasser have made it. The NBN policy is more complex than just throwing down a wad of money on fibre — it aims to achieve a number of outcomes, including industry restructuring, addressing broadband blackspots, a perceived lack of industry willingness to invest in its own infrastructure, and so on. I’d like to see some more complex discussion of the issue from top-level executives such as these — if they are serious about engaging in the debate.