The head of Australia’s peak independent research and policy advisory body has told a Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network (NBN) it has not been asked by the Government to play a part in the rollout.
Bernard Wonder, the Head of Office at the Productivity Commission, told the committee the body had no involvement with the government’s network plan and associated policy.
“We haven’t done any work on, as I outlined earlier, broadband in recent times; we haven’t done any work in respect of NBN, we haven’t looked at competition between NBN and other alternative forms of providing the services,” Wonder told the Senate panel at a public hearing.
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Wonder was also unable to answer questions regarding the lack of a government cost-benefit analysis into the network, as well as fears that equal service pricing across Australia could damage competition and apply upwards pressure on pricing.
However, he did note that public-private partnerships, like the one behind the infrastructure project as embodied by NBNco, needed to be clear on how risk will be managed.
A Productivity Commission submission to the Senate Select Committee itself contains several cautions regarding such partnerships.
“If the terms of a public-private partnership are well ‘bedded down’ in terms of where some of the risks are going to be handled, then the contingent liability situation is that, potentially, the government ends up bearing those risks,” Wonder said.
“So there’s a bit of a moral hazard, if you like; if you don’t get the public/private partnership right, then you worry about where those risks are ultimately going to be borne.”