news The Australian Labor Party has issued a fiery statement noting that it was responsible for commissioning the National Broadband Network satellite that successfully launched from French Guiana this morning, reminding the electorate that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull “fought tooth and nail” against the idea of the NBN company launching its own satellite infrastructure.
This morning the NBN company — in partnership with a number of other companies such as Arianespace, SSL, ViaSat, Optus and Ericsson — launched its own satellite into the skies over Australia from the South American country of French Guiana. The satellite is the first of two that are designed to provide speeds of up to 25Mbps to more than 400,000 homes and businesses in remote areas of Australia.
New Communications Minister Mitch Fifield issued a statement this morning claiming the satellite service was “part of the Government’s plan to make sure Austalians who need it most have access to better broadband”.
However, Labor issued its own statement this morning in the name of Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare and Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs Joel Fitzgibbon.
The statement pointed out that the two NBN satellites had been “commissioned and contracted under the previous Labor Government. “Australians living in rural and remote Australia have had to make do with poor internet access for too long. Labor understands that broadband is an essential utility, like electricity or water. That is why Labor commissioned these satellites in 2012 to give people in the bush access to fast broadband,” the two Shadow Ministers said.
“Fortunately for rural and regional Australians, Labor signed the contracts for delivery of these satellites before the last election.”
Labor’s statement pointed out that as Shadow Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull had opposed constructing the satellites.
“Malcolm Turnbull fought tooth and nail against these satellites when in Opposition,” the Labor MPs said. “He called the satellites a “Rolls-Royce solution” and “wasteful spending.””
In 2012, when he was Shadow Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull said: “There is enough capacity on private satellites already in orbit or scheduled for launch for the NBN to deliver broadband to the 200,000 or so premises in remote Australia without building its own.”
“In a backflip worthy of [Romanian gymnast] Nadia Comăneci, Malcolm Turnbull now calls these satellites a “game changer.” Labor welcomes the belated support from Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party for the NBN Satellite program. As they say, better late than never.”
“Labor understands the importance of expanding internet access in regional Australia and the launch of these satellites is a concrete example of a Labor Government delivering for the bush. One up, one to go – we look forward to the second of Labor’s NBN satellites being launched in 2016.”
Labor has also published a video online — download it here — of Turnbull criticising the satellite launch effort.
Turnbull’s statement on the NBN’s satellites no longer appears in full on his website — but it is available archived online.
Turnbull was also contradicted at the time by Optus chief Paul O’Sullivan, who stated that the company’s satellite capacity — the largest in Australia — was already accounted for and could not meet nbn’s requirements.
We don’t always see such a clear-cut case in politics, but in this case Labor is 100 percent accurate — it can indeed take credit for supporting the NBN company to build its own satellites. As I wrote in August:
“I would respectfully make two very humble suggestions to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Firstly, I would suggest that the Minister acknowledge that he was wrong in his statements in Opposition about existing satellite capacity in Australia being able to meet the needs of the NBN project.
Secondly, I would suggest that the Minister acknowledge that the previous Labor Government was seeking to address this issue by having nbn build its own satellites.
It’s true that nbn didn’t manage its Interim Satellite Service as well as it could have under the previous Labor administration, and that the company has put in some workarounds under the Coalition administration to help resolve this issue as a stopgap. However none of that changes the fact that it was Labor which kicked off both programs to start with. That was the right thing to do then — and it is still the right thing to do now.”
Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting