news The Opposition has accused Malcolm Turnbull of being a “failure” as a Communications Minister, highlighting yesterday’s launch of Fibre to the Node technology in New South Wales as a prime example of how the “self-appointed Digital Prime Minister” is taking Australia back to “pre-war technology”.
The NBN company yesterday took a major step towards its goal of implementing the Multi-Technology Mix approach which Malcolm Turnbull has brought to the project, formally launching its Fibre to the Node product as an option to retail broadband providers some two years after the 2013 Federal Election.
However, in several statements issued over the past week, the Opposition has expressed its extreme displeasure with new Prime Minister Turnbull over the NBN project as a whole, and the launch of the FTTN portion of the network specifically.
Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare said in a statement that the FTTN portion of the network — slated to reach some 500,000 premises by mid-2016 and 3.7 million by mid-2018 — relied on “old copper lines from last century” and was running late.
“The Fibre-to-the-Node switch on is now way behind schedule and means Malcolm Turnbull will not be able to meet the promise he made in Opposition that all Australian homes would have access to the NBN by the end of 2016,” Clare said. “NBN Co’s 2016 Corporate Plan reveals that all Australian homes now won’t get the NBN until 2020.”
“Malcolm Turnbull underestimated the timeframe, cost and complexity involved in shifting from Labor’s world class fibre-to-the-premises NBN to his second rate copper NBN.”
Clare added that in Opposition, Turnbull had also promised that the full scale rollout of the Coalition’s version of the NBN would be underway by mid-2015.
“It is now September 2015 and this still has not happened,” said Clare. “According to NBN Co’s Corporate Plan 2016, the large scale rollout won’t happen until the 2017 financial year.”
And Clare also took aim at the idea floated by NBN company chief executive Bill Morrow last week that the NBN company could replace degraded copper with new copper in some cases. The NBN company had previously said it was not able to get full access to details of the state of Telstra’s copper network before signing a contract to buy it.
“That’s right, Malcolm Turnbull’s NBN Co will replace 1940’s technology with a shinier version of 1940’s technology,” said Clare. “The self-appointed Digital Prime Minister is taking us back to pre-war technology. Malcolm Turnbull has moved on to bigger things but it is becoming increasingly clear that the NBN he has left behind is an absolute mess.”
In a separate statement, Clare accused Turnbull of being a “failure” as a Communications Minister.
“The NBN is rolling out slower than Malcolm Turnbull promised, and it is more expensive than he promised,” the Shadow Minister said. “The NBN has become the collateral damage of two years where Malcolm Turnbull was more focused on getting the Prime Minister’s job than doing his day job.”
“The Australian people have every right to feel they have been duped, ripped off and lied to by Malcolm Turnbull – because they have. Whomever Malcolm Turnbull appoints as his Communications Minster has a big job ahead of them to fix the mess the now Prime Minister has left behind.”
Clare invited the new Communications Minister Mitch Fifield to immediately take a number of steps to fix the situation, ranging from releasing the financial model that underpins the NBN Corporate Plan, to abandoning the Multi-Technology Model, to releasing detailed rollout information and ensuring that key NBN company executive and board appointments are made on merit. Clare also wants the Government to engage with the Opposition and industry on a bipartisan future vision for the NBN.
“The next Communications Minister needs to work in a bi-partisan way to build Australia’s digital future in a way that Malcolm Turnbull never could,” Clare said.
To be honest, it’s quite hard to disagree with Clare’s comments here.
The NBN is indeed being deployed slower than Turnbull promised, in a radically different form than he promised, and it’s going to be a heck of a lot more expensive than the Member for Wentworth ever envisioned.
And, of course, I am personally on the record already with my opinion that Turnbull was the worst Communications Minister Australia has ever seen, and not just because of the NBN.
I, too, would like to see a great deal more transparency with respect to the project, as Clare has called for, and I would also like to see NBN appointments made purely on merit and not — as it has appeared in the past — because of their connections to Turnbull or the Liberal Party. I would also like to see the Government prepared to work with the Opposition on a bipartisan view for the NBN.
Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to see Minister Fifield change much of this under Prime Minister Turnbull. I think it will very much be a case of staying the (flawed) course for now. To do anything else would be for Turnbull to admit he has got some things wrong with the NBN — and this is something which he will not do.
Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting