news Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has labelled the National Broadband Network a “key issue” for this year’s Federal Election, stating that Labor would launch its new NBN policy “in coming weeks” to tackle what he said was mismanagement of the project by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The NBN project was initiated by the Rudd and Gillard Labor Governments from 2007, although the best-known Fibre to the Premises version of the network was not formalised as a concrete project until April 2009.
Since September 2013, the Abbott and Turnbull administrations have substantially shifted the model of the network, moving away from Labor’s FTTP model and incorporating the legacy copper and HFC cable networks owned by Telstra and Optus, in a so-called “Multi-Technology Mix” approach.
In last week’s Budget Reply speech, Shorten pledged to bring Australia a “first-rate Fibre NBN” if Labor wins the upcoming Federal Election. However, the Opposition Leader did not clarify whether this meant Labor would return the NBN to a full-fibre model.
On Monday on the campaign trail in Cairns, Shorten was asked the following question by a journalist:
“A first-rate fibre NBN, can I ask what that actually means, is it fibre to the premises right the way through the system and do you have any modelling you can point to that will tell us how much that will cost?”
In response, the Opposition Leader said Labor would be announcing its NBN policy in “coming weeks”. “It will be a good NBN policy,” he said.
Shorten took aim at Turnbull’s performance as Communications Minister, leading the NBN project from September 2013 through September 2015, when he took the Prime Ministership from Tony Abbott.
“Don’t let them off the hook because not only was he been in the Cabinet the whole time, he was the Communications Minister,” said Shorten.
“The NBN is the single-largest infrastructure project that that man’s ever been in charge of and what’s happened? Before the last election it was only going to be $29 billion, then somehow in a bit of Mr Turnbull magic, it’s now $56 billion.”
“It’s slower, if you have a look at the Liberal literature which was put out to members of the public who voted for them in good faith at the last election, hundreds of thousands more households were promised NBN than have got them.”
“So, we think NBN is one of the key issues in this election and we will have more to say about that in coming weeks.”
Shorten’s comments were backed up by Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, who said the following during his Budget Reply speech on Tuesday at the National Press Club in Canberra:
“We believe in a first-class NBN. Not the more expensive and slower Turnbull version. You will hear plenty about our NBN plans during this election. The contrast of our approach and the Turnbull Government’s is real.”
In contrast, the Coalition appears to be planning to take a minimalist approach to NBN policy to this year’s election.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has given several indications that the Government will not support an upgrade to the NBN’s Fibre to the Node infrastructure and will instead continue with its existing NBN policy for the election campaign.
Good to see Shorten is at least aware that the NBN is an issue … he’s given it scant attention over the past two and a half years that the Coalition is in power.
Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting