blog We can’t help but agree with wise comments by seasoned Informa telecommunications analyst Tony Brown, published in this morning’s Financial Review newspaper. In an opinionated article (we recommend you click here for the full story), Brown broadly argues that the NBN is pretty much a normal infrastructure project — but that the political debate swirling around it has obscured the actual project and outcomes. Perhaps our favourite paragraph:
“Unfortunately the NBN is going to remain a polarising political issue until Labor and the Coalition finally realise that the greater national interest would be best served by them coming to a sensible compromise agreement on the project’s future.”
We couldn’t agree more. Delimiter has been calling for bipartisan agreement on a commonly agreed version of the NBN policy for some years. As your writer wrote in September 2011:
“If there is one thing Australia desperately needs right now, it is for our elected representatives to stop making dramatic changes to our national telecommunications policy every few years and to come together around a set of universally agreed projects. The alternative is another half-decade worth of pointless wasted effort and industry chaos.
The long-term nature of infrastructure investment and the squabbling of the past half-decade has made it increasingly clear that a bi-partisan approach to telecommunications policy is needed in Australia. The only difficulty may be convincing our arrogant, indecisive, stubborn and incredibly own-party blinkered political leaders that they should sit across the table from each other and discuss the issue like adults. At times they appear to forget that they are all employed by the same person — the Australian taxpayer.”
Not everything is about politics, and massive infrastructure projects on the scale of the NBN certainly should not be about politics. You simply cannot run a decade-long infrastructure project on a three-year electoral cycle; good project governance just does not allow for this. But I suspect we’ll have a hard time convincing Australia’s politicians about this; in general, they tend to look out for their own desire to win power more than anything else. To a certain extent, the two sides of politics have come together recently, with the Coalition’s rival NBN policy supporting a large number of the fundamentals of Labor’s own. To analysts like Paul Budde, this is enough to say that the NBN more or less has bipartisan support these days. But I suspect that Brown, like myself, would like to see the two sides come together further and bicker over the project a lot less.