A war of words has broken out between Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and his opposite number, Nick Minchin, leader of the opposition in the Senate over the viability of the National Broadband Network.
In a statement, Minchin branded the NBN a “white elephant in the making,” and slammed the government for its proposed spend of $54.2 million on consultants and lawyers over two years. The money is aimed at implementing the $43 billion NBN.
Stephen Conroy described the Opposition as seeking to “opportunistically delay the roll out of high speed broadband to support Australia’s future businesses and services…”
He criticized Senator Minchin and the Liberal Party for their refusal to debate legislation needed for the NBN unless commercially sensitive information is tabled in parliament.
“The release of this commercially sensitive information by the Government would be irresponsible,” Conroy said.
He also accused the Opposition of hypocrisy, saying that under Minchin’s watch as the former finance minister of the Howard government, the then government did not release scoping studies or reports relating to the sales of Telstra, MediBank Private and ComLand & Defence Housing Authority.
Minchin hit back, casting doubt on how the government will fund its initial $4.7 billion investment in the NBN. “[There is] speculation that it will contribute just $2.4 billion from the Building Australia Fund and will raise the remainder as debt.”
He also called into question the proposed beginning of the broadband roll out in Tasmania in July, saying that there is no budget clarity about the roll out.