news The Opposition has directly targeted the record of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the National Broadband Network project, in what appears to be the first of a new wave of mailouts to voters designed to influence its electoral results, mimicking its approach during the last Federal Election in mid-2013.
Federal Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan — the Member for Perth in Western Australia — has issued a pamphlet to voters in her region stating: “Perth’s suburbs are rated as some of the lowest on the government’s broadband quality assessment … but still won’t get the NBN until at least 2020.”
The pamphlet lists Perth suburbs such as Embleton, Noranda, Maylands, Bedford, Bayswater and Dianella, alleging that they are, on average, currently receiving broadband speeds of less than 10Mbps, compared with suburbs such as Swanbourne, Sorrento, Alfred Cove and Watermans Bay, which, the pamphlet alleges, have much higher average broadband speeds closer to 20Mbps.
In the pamphlet, MacTiernan states that when holding the Communications portfolio for the Coalition, Turnbull promised that all homes and businesses would have NBN access by 2016, that those with the worst levels of broadband would get the NBN first, and that the “second-rate NBN”, using “old copper wire”, would be cheaper at $29.5 billion.
In reality, the pamphlet claims, many homes in the suburbs listed above wouldn’t receive the NBN before 2019 at the earliest. It adds that some of the suburbs listed have some of Australia’s worst broadband speeds, but still weren’t on the NBN’s planned rollout, and that the “second-rate NBN” has doubled in cost to $56 billion.
MacTiernan has invited her constituents to sign an online petition on her website calling for “a real NBN rollout across Western Australia”, as well as emailing her their “broadband horror stories”.
On the petition page, MacTiernan writes:
“The 18th century had the steam engine and the 20th century electricity at the core of economic growth. The 21st century economy will be increasingly based on the internet. Some predict that there could be as many as 26 billion devices connected by the internet by 2020. These devices could range from heart monitoring implants to industrial-scale manufacturing equipment.”
“Malcolm Turnbull’s vision of how people outside the CBD of capital cities use the internet seems to be confined to consumers downloading movies. He claims in ten years we’ll only want 15 megabytes per second, when the majority of new customers signing up for the NBN are already asking for 25mbps.”
“Under Labor, all homes and businesses would have received fibre to their premises. So instead of linking 93% of Australian homes and businesses directly with fibre, it looks like 50% of Australians could be given a third rate system that relies on the degraded copper network under his fibre to the node idea.”
“We know from our experience in Perth that Telstra has not maintained these lines well, and in many areas the copper is not capable of reliably transmitting voice calls let alone high speed data.”
MacTiernan’s mailout mimics a number of similar mailouts which Labor issued during the September 2013 Federal Election campaign.
Looks like Labor is definitely going to campaign in the next Federal Election on Turnbull’s record on the NBN, and that the NBN is going to be a hot election issue. I can’t say I’m surprised. Game on: Labor appears to have fired the starter’s pistol.
As with Labor’s previous NBN election materials, MacTiernan’s pamphlet contains a mix of truths and half-truths.
It is true that many of the suburbs listed by MacTiernan currently have poor broadband access, and that the NBN is not scheduled to land there anytime soon. However, that’s not to say that the NBN isn’t coming to Perth in general. It is … there are plenty of suburbs within Perth which are definitely slated to receive the NBN within the next few years — or, indeed, which already have it.
Secondly, Turnbull didn’t technically promise to deliver the NBN to all homes and businesses by 2016. In April 2013, the Coalition announced its NBN policy. Delimiter wrote at the time:
“According to the pair’s media release, the Coalition’s policy is based on the core pledge that the group will deliver download speeds of between 25Mbps and 100Mbps by the end of 2016 — effectively the end of its first term in power — and 50Mbps to 100Mbps by the end of 2019, effectively the end of its second term. According to the Coalition’s statement this morning, the 25Mbps to 100Mbps pledge applies to “all premises”, while the higher pledge by 2019 applies to “90 percent of fixed line users”.”
It was always clearly Turnbull’s intention to meet this aim by counting premises connected to existing high-speed networks such as the HFC cable networks operated by Telstra and Optus, as well as TransACT’s FTTN network in the ACT, for example. Turnbull did not have to deploy the NBN to all Australian premises to meet the aim.
MacTiernan has also taken the worst case in terms of the cost of the Coalition’s version of the NBN — listing it as costing $56 billion, when the real cost may be significantly less. The latest cost blowout in the NBN — detailed in August – ranges from between $5 billion and $15 billion.
Image credit: Labor