news The Financial Review newspaper has launched an extraordinary attack on Labor’s Fibre to the Premises-based National Broadband Network policy, describing it as an “expensive joke” and a “Kevin Rudd vanity project”, claiming that Labor has “no credibility” when it comes to broadband.
Yesterday Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare made a number of comments which gave some indication as to Labor’s future policy direction in terms of the National Broadband Network, with the Labor MP indicating that his party would continue to drive fibre further in the NBN project than the Coalition is currently planning.
You can read Delimiter’s full analysis of Clare’s comments here.
In response, the Financial Review published an editorial this morning stating that Labor has “no credibility in this area”. The newspaper wrote:
“The NBN as conceived under Rudd Labor turned an important piece of national infrastructure, running to a sensible timetable into a Kevin Rudd vanity project, with no real idea of the costs, that ran to a political schedule. It went from $4.7 billion in 2007, to $42 billion in 2009 to cost at least $56 billion today.
A lack of considered detail bedevilled the NBN under Labor. The fact the party doesn’t want to give any details about its new plan – or more accurately, a reinstatement of the old NBN – and not talk about the cost, makes this policy look like the last: an expensive joke.”
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield linked to the newspaper’s article from his Twitter account, stating: “The Financial Review editorial today says everything you need to know about Labor’s #NBN policy.”
— Mitch Fifield (@SenatorFifield) October 15, 2015
The Financial Review has a long history of attacking Labor’s NBN project when Labor was in Government.
For example, in June 2012, in its main masthead editorial, the newspaper published a number of heavily disputed statements regarding the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network project, including backing the controversial claim that a new generation of wireless technologies could make the NBN’s fibre rollout obsolete.
In February 2013, the newspaper published a story claiming that the NBN project wouldn’t recover its costs by the year 2040, despite the fact that NBN Co explicitly stated in the same document reported by the AFR that there were several potential scenarios where it would recover the costs by that date.
In August 2012, following sustained criticism of the NBN project by the AFR and other newspapers such as The Australian, then-Communications Minister Stephen Conroy delivered a fiery tirade against the media for constantly repeating misconceptions about the NBN, singling out the Financial Review newspaper for particular ridicule and recommending that those interested in accuracy read broadband forum Whirlpool instead.
The AFR had, prior to 2011, had historically taken what many believed was a relatively even-handed approach to the NBN, in contrast with The Australian, which had regularly attacked the project from its inception in 2009.
However, it is widely believed that the appointment of Michael Stutchbury as Editor in Chief of the AFR in September 2011 marked a change in the newspaper’s approach to the NBN. Stutchbury was previously Editor of The Australian newspaper from 2001 to 2006. He had previously spent 16 years at the AFR.
Well I guess we now know where the Fin sits on the NBN. So much for reporting without fear or favour …