NBN oversight falls victim to partisanship

A parliamentary committee into the NBN has made eight recommendations in a report, including providing greater transparency from NBN Co around audited financial statements.

Independent MP Rob Oakeshott has lambasted the Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network (JCNBN) for becoming more about party politics than about the roll out of the NBN.

Oakeshott, chair of the committee, wrote in its fourth report [PDF] that the role of parliamentary committees is to leave party politics at the door.

However, he wrote it was a concerning trend “where sensitivities of our oversight work as compared to political party election platforms has made the work of the committee much more difficult than it need be.

“In my view, this is an early warning sign that the topic of higher speed broadband technology is likely to feature strongly in political debate throughout 2013, an election year.”

Oakeshott said the committee was becoming stuck on “policy dispute” about which technology was the most appropriate for the NBN roll out.

“Despite the opportunities to report and provide oversight on a number of important aspects of the current roll-out, there is every chance the next report will be nothing more than a compendium of political statements and election promises,” he said.

“If this is all we can produce, I could write it now, and it makes the entire committee process worthless and a waste of time for all involved.”

Committee recommendations

The JCNBN made eight recommendations in its report, among them calls for greater transparency from NBN Co, with the committee asking for performance indicators on business plan targets and actual results of the rollout progress every six months.

The JCNBN has also suggested private equity interest in the network should be explored at an earlier date – in its 2012-15 corporate plan, NBN Co said around $13.7 billion in funding would come from peak debt, with NBN Co’s initial corporate plan indicating additional debt funding would “involve private sector investment”.

Oakeshott previously told Computerworld Australia there was interest from domestic and international companies investing in the NBN but the private sector was reluctant to invest too early.

Other recommendations from the JCNBN report include requirements for NBN Co to provide annual statements on where workforce demand and training was needed for the NBN.

The JCNBN also cautioned the federal government on ensuring the NBN remained affordable to all Australians.

Dissenting report

The Coalition has used a dissenting statement in the parliamentary report to slam the federal government’s handling of the NBN rollout.

Malcolm Turnbull, Shadow Communications Minister, said the project is a “black box”, with Turnbull calling for greater transparency around rollout data, capital expenditure and take-up rates.

He also reiterated his call for a cost benefit analysis of the NBN to provide details on construction costs, revenue and any implications for end user prices based on NBN Co’s current SAU, which freezes wholesale prices of NBN products for five years.

The JCNBN is required to report to parliament every six months “until the NBN is complete and operational”.

Oakeshott challenged committee members to prove that the committee could provide valid commentary and recommendations on advancing the NBN policy.

“Somewhat naively, I live in hope!” he said.

JCNBN hearings

NBN Co downgrades construction targets

NBN Co still working out how to connect apartments to the NBN

NBN delay is NBN Co's fault, not ours: ACCC

Parliamentary report: NBN Co should prioritise funding models

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Tags Malcolm Turnbullnbn coRob OakeshottNational Broadband Network (NBN)Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network (JCNBN)

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It seems that the Coalition have no interest whatever in the development of our future national communications, except as a political platform for seeking to destroy an excellent project because they didn't think of it.



Of course the Coalition don't like it. Their primary advisor is ex Optus and how much influence does Optus have in the NBN ?

Mates and vested interests are a normal part of the political arena and there is no such thing putting the nation's interests ahead of personal interest. The shortsightedness of both parties is everyones fault.

Gordon Drennan


It seems Labor has no interest whatever in spending our money well, just in claiming credit for a project that everyone wants in principle, but some people want to ensure isn't gold-plated.



Please don't be deluded into thinking the Coalition will be a better builder of the NBN. Both parties seem inept for different reasons.

Unfortunately I think Malcolm is being sort of ultruistic in his assumptions about the costings his mates are serving up to deliver a FTTN solution.

The way malcolm is talking he will just end up enlarging the corporate feeding trough through a muti tier project management system like Labour has proved adds a very serious markup to the whole scheme (BER = 3x base cost). Then the 5 Billion $'s or more that might be saved in a perfect world will end being reversed, badly.

End of the day I reckon that a Coalition implementation will cost more than they think as favoured interests like Optus will do whatever they can to turn old costly copper based HFC infrastructure into a "Shiny new solution" to fix up their market position and maintain a certain level of status quo.

NBN absolutely tears like a chainsaw at the all of the entrenched Telco positions which is why there has been a big fight with big dollars from day zero that NBN was announced. They won't stop kicking until the last site is connected.

By the way, I like Malcom a lot.

Abel Adamski


I see the term being bandied around.
Precisely what do you mean by "Gold Plated" on a build and design to serve Australia as its National Communications platform for the next 50+ years.

Please identify the supposed "Gold Plating"

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