The AFR turns on Turnbull’s MTM over $800m Optus HFC issue


blog It’s definitely the case that the Financial Review newspaper has not always been kind to Labor over its big-spending, near universal fibre National Broadband Network policy. In 2012 the Fin claimed that wireless technologies could make the NBN’s fibre obsolete, that same year the newspaper’s NBN coverage was so bad that then-Communications Minister Stephen Conroy recommended people read Whirlpool’s forums instead, and just last month the newspaper described Labor’s version of the NBN as an “expensive joke”.

However, now the worm appears to be turning. Financial Review technology editor Paul Smith last week published a fiery article stating that the leaked internal NBN documents detailing one view of Optus’ HFC cable network had serious implications for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s stewardship of the project. Smith wrote that the release represented “shocking” news for the Government. He added (we recommend you click here for the full article)

“Make no mistake, the purchase of Optus’ aging network has been shown to be a costly error, made necessary by the need to realise the vision of Turnbull’s MTM NBN. Whereas the $800 million Optus was getting from the former Labor govenment was an undoubtedly hefty price to pay for retiring a network and getting its customers onto Labor’s fibre, the idea of over-building the network now to make it fit for purpose smacks of throwing more good money after bad.”

Now, on the one hand it’s hard to know just how seriously to take this article from the AFR. Smith is the newspaper’s technology editor — he’s not one of the senior editors that set the editorial direction of the Financial Review as a whole. He’s a very good journalist, but does his view represent the AFR’s view on the NBN in general? Hardly. On the other hand, it is indeed fascinating that the higher-ups at the AFR have let this article be published.

Could the mainstream media tide be turning against Turnbull when it comes to the NBN? Andrew Bolt has already expressed his reservations. It will be interesting to see if the AFR continues in this line of criticism of the Prime Minister over his handling of Australia’s largest ever infrastructure project.

Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull