Senator Stephen Conroy has hit out at Malcolm Turnbull’s comments on the National Broadband Network (NBN), calling him “either lazy, financially illiterate, or both”.
The minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy said in a statement that Turnbull has misled the public about the Budget 2012-13 in regards to the NBN.
The shadow minister for communications and broadband claimed the Labor government “cooked” the books for the Budget 2012-13 by shifting $1.5 billion worth of expenses forward from 2012-13 to 2011-12, including a lump sum payment of $421 million to Telstra to the current financial year.
“Almost a third of the surplus [from the budget] comes from Senator Stephen Conroy’s creative accounting with the NBN,” Turnbull said in a statement.
However, Conroy said in a statement that the payment to Telstra was part of definitive agreements which were made 7 March 2012.
“There is nothing new about these payments nor can they be described as having been ‘brought forward’,” he said.
Conroy also lashed out at Turnbull’s claim that the equity the government has injected into NBN Co should be included in the budget.
“The NBN is an investment in an asset from which the government will receive a return. It is classified by International Accounting Standards as an equity investment rather than a budget expense,” he said.
In response to the Federal Government’s budget, Turnbull yesterday highlighted the NBN is at least a year behind schedule and has undergone a budget blowout of $400 million to now total an investment of $14.5 billion, compared to the DBCDE’s original estimate of $14.1 billion.
“Yet, the network only has 5000 or so customers currently using its fibre network, compared to the 137,000 projected by June 2012 in NBN Co’s Corporate Plan,” he said.
“It is imperative Senator Conroy immediately releases a revision of NBN Co’s December 2010 corporate plan – fiscal honesty and policy transparency require it.”
However, Conroy has defended the million dollar “blowout” as being due to accounting deferments.
“The claim of a $400 million blowout in equity is false. Mr Turnbull’s assertion that there has been an increase in equity of $400M simply reflects that equity funding of $350 million was deferred from 2011-12 to 2012-13,” he said.
The Federal Government also announced $20 million in funding from yesterday’s budget to improve public understanding of the NBN and $20 million for an education portal which uses the NBN.
Turnbull has questioned whether this will result in more “pro-NBN propaganda”.
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