news Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared victory in the hard-fought Federal Election, in a move that ensures that the controversial Fibre to the Node technology which Turnbull personally favours is here to stay as a core part of the National Broadband Network.
Over the weekend, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten rang Turnbull to concede defeat in the election, with the prolonged counting process after the poll a week ago finally making clear that the Coalition would continue to hold the reins of power in the Federal Government.
From here, Turnbull is set to lead either a majority or minority Coalition Government, ensuring that the Member for Wentworth will retain the confidence of the Parliament as Prime Minister.
The move has several strong and immediate implications for the National Broadband Network.
Firstly, the election victory will ensure that the Coalition’s Multi-Technology Mix approach to the National Broadband Network will remain.
During the election campaign, Labor adopted the HFC cable aspect of the Coalition’s MTM vision, but stated that it would not proceed with deploying the vast majority of Fibre to the Node connections which the Coalition plans to reach about a third of Australian premises over the next half-decade.
Turnbull’s victory means that those FTTN connections will proceed. The Coalition did not, as some had predicted, launch a revised NBN policy during the election.
It does not appear that any of the crossbenchers upon whom Turnbull may be forced to rely on for support in the new Parliament — Bob Katter, Cathie McGowan, Andrew Wilkie or Nick Xenophon Team MP Rebekha Sharkie — have formed a strong enough view of the NBN that they would make blocking FTTN part of their conditions for supporting a Coalition Government.
The two former independent MPs who contested the election with a strong view on the NBN — Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott — did not successfully enter Parliament.
The introduction of FTTN into the NBN has been extremely widely criticised, and was seen as an influential issue during the election campaign. It appears likely that the issue had a strong impact on a number of electorates, especially in Tasmania, where the Coalition lost all of its sitting MPs to Labor.
Labor made the NBN issue a centrepiece of its campaign.
However, ultimately the issue was not significant enough to decide the election as a whole.
The inclusion of FTTN into the NBN’s rollout plan means that those areas of Australia who are slated to receive FTTN will likely require further updates to FTTP, during the period from 2020 to 2030.
Turnbull’s election victory also has other implications for the NBN.
From today, the NBN company is no longer to be subject to the Caretaker provisions, meaning that its hands have been freed to discuss its rollout and the MTM NBN policy in public.
In addition, Turnbull’s election ensures that a number of key NBN staff seen as being partisan towards the Coalition — such as NBN Chair Ziggy Switkowski and senior executives such as JB Rousselot and Karina Keisler — will keep their roles at the NBN company. It had been expected that a number of these executives would have lost their positions if Labor had claimed victory in the election.
It also appears likely, given the likely constitution of the Senate, that the Senate Select Committee into the NBN will be re-established, with Labor, the Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team appearing likely to support such a move. The Greens have pledged to re-establish the Committee as part of its NBN policy.
This would mean that the NBN project would continue to be scrutinised by a dedicated parliamentary oversight committee, as well as through the Senate Estimates processes associated with the Senate’s Standing Committee on Environment and Communications, which will be automatically re-established when the Senate next sits.
In addition, it is likely that the Coalition will continue to examine long-term plans to split up the NBN company into smaller chunks and privatise it.
The Coalition’s expanded plan to tackle mobile blackspots during the next several years is also likely to be enacted. It is broadly supported by Labor.
It is expected that current Communications Minister Mitch Fifield will remain in his role following the election. One further task for Turnbull in the area of technology policy will be to decide whether to source a replacement for Innovation Minister Wyatt Roy, who lost his seat of Longman in the poll.
Opinion/analysis to follow.
Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull