NBN a “key election issue”, Labor policy coming soon, says Shorten


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


  1. If NBNco follow turnbull’s plan, is it likely to show up in the budget instead of being an investment that pays for itself.

    That should appeal to lib voters. A little fear may work on some of them. That is what they are attuned to.

    • At this point, showing up on the budget is probably unavoidable. There are no good answers. Do they spend billions building obselete infrastructure with a low or possibly negative rate of return ? Do they write off the whole thing at a $10 billion loss ? Or should they incur another major delay turning the ship around yet again to build something better (FTTP or FTTdP) ?

      • Point taken.
        I’d like to at least see some skinny fibre rolled to get an idea of how much it really costs. MTMco cooked the books so many times I don’t believe anything they say.

      • No. If you build full FTTP and legislate transfer of competing networks into NBN Co then it will be profitable again. The problem is the market share erosion resulting from the inadequate MTM combined with the inability for NBN Co to sell high revenue products (100mbps and greater). I realise the CVC charges are exorbitant, but once the construction debt has been paid down CVC can be gradually relaxed, allowing for gradual reduction of access prices. But that won’t happen under the MTM – not only will it be unprofitable, it will be more expensive to build, won’t be able to attract private investment, and will be more expensive to run, too.

        A Royal Commission tasked to look into the legality of the MTM changes might show that the whole process was corrupt and illegal (I say might, I mean would, in a reality that allowed an Ex-PM to be charged with anything), paving the way for scrapping the ridiculous 10 year contracts. The only thing saving the NBN at this point is that the LNP haven’t been able to privatise it yet. That will change if they get another term.

        • The rediculous CVC model will lead to the destruction of competition in the market and you will have four choices of provider. Then it wont matter how much it costs because the entrench oligopoly can set whatever prices they want.

        • “The only thing saving the NBN at this point is that the LNP haven’t been able to privatise it yet.”

          New rule should be made to not sell NBN to a telco that has not been structurally separated.
          Could labor do that even if they don’t win the election?

      • Except there would not be a major delay in switching. The CEO, Bill Morrow, himself has stated as such and if you look at what’s required, for FTTdp you simply follow much of the existing FTTP plans. The groundwork has been laid. And we must switch away from FTTN just for the financial risk, let alone the technical. Every other technology in the MTM we can live with and can have reasonable confidence in.

        • Sure, there will be areas where the switch is straightforward enough. But in many areas some work on FTTN has already been done, and switching away in those areas will incur serious costs.

  2. Can’t wait for the political TV commercials for the next many.. many.. many weeks :(
    We might see a node or two!

  3. I suspect just about any ALP NBN policy will be better than the Turnbull MTM cock-up.
    As noted here http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/05/09/a_modest_proposal_dump_the_nbn_mess_on_telstra/ Turnbull has fulfilled his brief to destroy the NBN.
    And it still continues as can be seen by the push of subscribers onto the Satellite services.
    * because the Satellites are a sunk capital cost and by maximizing the subscriber rates it maximizes the ROI while reducing capital outlay on terrestrial works of running FTTN and wireless services.
    * it makes the Sat’s a more attractive investment when the inevitable sale of the asset occurs under a LNP Govt.

    Turnbull and LNP haven’t finishing screwing over the NBN yet. There’s a lot more dirty machinations and deals to happen yet.

    • As I posted on Whirlpool:


      Sadly, I think this is amongst the most accurate synopsis of the current situation that I have read. The NBN is now so political, and as Richard Chirgwin says in the article, it is so enmeshed in the Telstra morass that no government could ever hope to rescue it. Telstra has been shown, time and again, to have very deep pockets and no compunction when it comes to legally fighting to save its perceived interests, and there will not be the stomach for such a fight even if the government changes. We may as well steel ourselves that Turnbull has all but succeeded in meeting his dear leader’s instructions and destroying the NBN. I’ve been saying publicly for many years that this was the end game – “gifting” the whole sorry and sad mess to Telstra in desperation, and as each day passes, and the stinking cesspit that has been created gets bigger, that is looking increasingly likely. The implications of such a decision will be unbelievably bad for Australia and Australians for many generations to come.

    • Interesting link, comments:

      “The first is Telstra. The original plan would have seen the old copper decommissioned – the customers would be migrated to the NBN, not the network; the copper would be decommissioned after all customers were migrated.”

      Not for the most expensive areas (LtE & Sat).

      “The Abbott government brought the NBN on-budget – adding considerably to its budget deficits – and just before the election, it made its last budget allocation to the network.”

      C’mon, seriously. On-budget not true. Expect more equity injections when the market declines NBNCo’s capital raising.

      “The ALP’s communications spokesperson Jason Clare has hinted at FTTDP, but we won’t hear much about it in the coming campaign, because only a fool ties his own noose.”

      Watch for the noose tying in a couple of weeks. He’s already booked the lessons.

      “It’s a fearful thing to say, but an outcome I find horrifying might actually be the best: to hand the whole mess to Telstra, give it an instruction – no ifs or buts – to deliver decent broadband as soon as possible and fibre to a timetable, and regulate the daylights out of its wholesale offerings”

      Now that makes sense, except Telstra will be happy to stand on the sidelines as NBNCo’s massive losses continue. In the end they’ll pick up Conroy’s policy corpse for a fraction of taxpayers contributed equity.

  4. Be interesting to see what they have planned given the coalition clowns politically motivated destruction…

  5. “he’s given it scant attention over the past two and a half years that the Coalition is in power.”

    Personally I see that as a good thing, let Turnbull fail by himself, no need to point out his mistakes to him as that lets him potentially correct them.

    Then, come election time, with perfect fodder over the last several years of Turnbull making an idiot of himself, let loose the hounds of the underworld and attack him full on, he won’t see it coming :)

  6. “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.”

    Oh dear here we go again, it’s not $56B.

    Not a good start so far Labor.

  7. @alain

    “Oh dear here we go again, it’s not $56B”

    Prove it’s not… GO

    You’re welcome

  8. It’s going to extremely interesting to see Labor’s funding estimates and amended rollout timelines because the Coalition MtM mix at least relies on existing infrastructure copper and HFC owned by the NBN Co, and not overbuilt with all new inside the premise FTTP.

    It’s going to be a Labor ‘water into wine’ funding and speed of deployment scenario, insinuate more fibre , which of course means higher CPP straight up, because either of these two scenarios need to happen.

    1. Overbuild part or all of the current HFC target of 4M residences with FTTP or maybe FTTdp.

    2. Substitute part or all of the current FTTN target of 4.5M residences with FTTP or maybe FTTdp.

    • @r Labor will keep HFC & FTTB. Only the squealers (& Conroy) continues the FTTH fantasy.

      As I posted several months ago; this leaves them arguing over the 3-3.5m FTTN. Given the pace of FTTN rollout (more premises passed in last 6 months than Labor achieved in 4.5 years at less than half the cost) Labor’s policy document will indeed be fascinating reading.

      • The rational and fiscally responsible thing to do will be to at least keep HFC, but Labor have made the point that there is going be more fibre, so far that has only been a political pork barrel FTTP hand out for three small towns in West Tassie, as to when they are going to get it please don’t ask, which leaves replacing all or part of the current national FTTN targets with FTTP/FTTdp.

        Labor must be looking at the FTTN rollout pace with dismay, because a fibre replacement will slow that down and add to the already burgeoning cost.

        What to do while trying to look different.

        • Wow the faithful are tagging, how cute…

          I smell an election… and smell the associated fear and desperation from the rad cons and that leftish leader of their’s…


          BTW – “Where have we heard this before?” says Richard.

          Err, probably in yesterdays edition of the Australian…and the day before.


          FAILED HFC (your words) there fixed that for you.

          You’re welcome

        • @Reality

          Labor could put their fingers in their ears, shout LALALALALALA and change the current course without any regard for rationality or fiscal responsibility and just lie to the public with a three word slogan.

          It apparently worked for Turnbull and he still has his devoted singing the LNP praises to boot.

          • I thought the NBN had nothing to do with the Coalition winning in 2013?

            How it works for a Labor apologist FTTP fan is like this, if Labor win the July election it will be because of their NBN policy, if the Coalition win the election it won’t have anything to do with their NBN policy.

          • @ alain…

            “I thought”… you say!

            Stop right there…

            Woo hoo… a hearty congratulations alain, for finally thinking… and having an actual thought.

            But be honest now…

            Was it really your “very own” thought or was it typically, actually spoon fed to you via, well you know who?

            Just askin’

            You’re welcome.

          • @Rizz

            As I’ve pointed out many times, Alain doesn’t actually “think”. He copies and pastes from other forums (prolly the `stralian, but possible an internal LPA “discussion” site). Don’t expect a high level of engagement with him (but I’m guessing you already know that).

      • “Given the pace of FTTN rollout (more premises passed in last 6 months than Labor achieved in 4.5 years”
        1) Indeed, Labor was abysmal with the speed of their FTTN rollout.
        2) Interestingly, according to Alains figures, Labor rolled out FTTP at twice the speed on average compared to the Coalitions effort for FTTN.

        ” at less than half the cost) ”
        Please explain how a revamped project that has ballooned its costs by $15-30b equals somehow less than half of the original project. I think you pressed that +/- button on your calculator one too many times.

        • Please explain how a revamped project that has ballooned its costs by $15-30b equals somehow less than half of the original project.

          Indeed, so bad in fact that they can’t even find private equity funding now!

  9. Renai, given that our time is precious is there any chance delimiter can implement the ability to block particular user responses?

    That way my internet can be used for interesting stuff (like the advertisements on the side) instead of re-reading the crap posted by Richard and Alain.

    • Unfortunately such a feature wouldn’t stop others form quoting them so it would be effectively useless.

      • “Unfortunately such a feature wouldn’t stop others form quoting them so it would be effectively useless”

        I agree

Comments are closed.