news A new survey taken by respected analysis house Essential has shown that a total of 58 percent of Australians oppose privatising the National Broadband Network Company, around the same level as those opposing government-owned media groups the ABC and SBS.
Currently, the National Broadband Network Company is owned entirely by the Federal Government, which has plunged billions of dollars of capital investment into the company. However, over the long term, both sides of politics have canvassed at least a partial privatisation of NBN Co, in a similar way to the sell-off of Telstra shares over the previous decade.
In November 2010, the Greens struck a deal with the then-Rudd Government to support Labor’s NBN-related legislation to restructure the telecommunications industry, on the basis that provisions be included to make it difficult to privatise NBN Co.
The move was an apparent attempt to avoid repeating what the Greens have publicly claimed for some time as one of the main problems with the telecommunications sector over the past decade — the privatisation of Telstra and the shift of the telco out of government hands and out from under the control of Federal Parliament. It is unclear, with the mixed Senate, whether the new Coalition Government could get the Greens’ legislative additions reversed.
“We feel it is our obligation to make sure that it is as difficult as possible for a future government to privatise the NBN in the future so we have inserted a public interest test and we’ve made sure that it would be submitted to a vote in Parliament,” Greens Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam told the ABC’s AM radio program at the time. “So that if a future government wants to privatise the NBN there will be some hurdles in the way and they’ll be forced to prove whether or not it is in the public interest.”
From 24 through 27 January this year, a new survey was conducted online by Essential Research and Your Source, based on just over 1,000 Australian respondents (see the full PDF here). Among the questions focused on, was several asking about the proposed privatisation of major government-owned organisations.
The results showed that in total, 58 percent of those surveyed opposed the privatisation of the National Broadband Network. Of that total, 34 percent strongly opposed it, and a further 24 percent opposed it.
In total, 28 percent of those surveyed in total supported the privatisation of the National Broadband Network, consisting of some 21 percent who supported it and just seven percent who strongly supported it. A further 14 percent said they did not know what would be the best option.
In general, Essential noted that support for privatisation was higher amongst Liberal/National voters, although these voters were still more likely to oppose than support. However, when it came to the NBN specifically, the numbers were more even, with 46 percent of Liberal/National voters supporting privatisation of the NBN and 42 percent against it.
The overall opposition was similar to the idea of privatising the ABC and SBS. In that case, 64 percent said they would oppose privatising the two broadcasters, with only 21 percent supporting privatisation. Even higher numbers were against privatising Australia Post, while similar numbers were achieved for MediBank Private, the Snowy Hydro Scheme, and the Australian Rail Track Corporation.
Essential also asked another question relevant to privatisation, asking whether Australians believed that privatisation was generally a good or bad idea. Most — 59 percent — said it was a bad idea, while 21 percent said it was a good idea and some 20 percent didn’t know.
No real surprises here. Australians have been burnt with the privatisation of Telstra and the stagnation caused by its vertically integrated hold over the national telecommunications industry. It seems clear most Australians do not want NBN Co privatised, and only a small percentage of us (seven percent) would strongly support it being privatised.
This reflects what I have written before about Australia’s political class being unrepresentative of the general population. Most Australians, even Coalition voters, want a FTTP NBN, yet the Coalition itself is against it. Most Australians, even a huge proportion of Coalition voters, don’t want the NBN privatised. And yet if the Coalition is in power long enough, it inevitably will be.
If we go back a few years, the pattern continues. Most Australians opposed Labor’s Internet filter. And yet Labor tried to push the plan through. Most Australians are against data retention and against being spied on unnecessarily by the NSA. And yet both sides of politics are supporting such initiatives. Most Australians were for a R18+ rating for video games, as most other first world countries already had. And yet it took many, many years for Australia’s politicians to agree on that.
The trend is quite clear. My only question is: Why do most Australians put up with this bullshit from our politicians continually? It seems like if most Australians would just get off their ass and express their discontent with the situation, most politicians would need to start paying attention.
Image credit: Still from Gladiator