Government going about NBN backwards: Ludlam

Greens assert that NBN Co should be kept in public hands

The NBN Implementation Study is another sign that the Federal Government has gone about building the National Broadband Network (NBN) in a backwards manner, according to Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam.

"The government's put itself into a very difficult position," he told Computerworld Australia. "Because we've established NBN Co, it's started digging trenches and rolling out cable before we've got legislation and before we've got the implementation study.

"There's no framework around this thing, we've got a business that's up and running needing, for the minister's purposes, to score points before the election season really gets run up."

While Ludlam recognised the KPMG and McKinsey & Company-penned implementation report as important to assessing the economics of the fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network, Ludlam agreed with criticisms that it told Senator Stephen Conroy what he wanted to hear.

"They're doing all of the thinking and all of the legislative work after the entity has been created, and have already started spending taxpayers' money."

Conroy's two-month delay on the public release of the report has further slowed the legislative process, which is meant to ensure the company building the network doesn't become another taxpayer-funded Telstra.

Those fears have been previously echoed by Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, who told radio personality, Alan Jones, recently that a nationalised telecommunications carrier would reiterate the monopolistic attitude held by Telstra. However, unlike Abbott, Ludlam said he believed the key to avoiding another Telstra was to keep NBN Co in public hands.

"Even if it's got at a very strong mandate only to provide wholesale, open access services to all access seekers, there's still enough wiggle room for that entity to become a concern," he said.

One of the key losses in privatising NBN Co is Parliamentary accountability, a government mechanism the Senate has already utilised to draw out concealed or poorly understood information from chief executive officer, Mike Quigley.

"We lose those mechanisms the day they privatise it," Ludlam said.

The public also loses any further return on taxpayer investment into the government. The implementation study estimated NBN Co could deliver a six to seven per cent return on investment by year 15. However, given the company is already expected to be completely privatised by that time, any further return goes directly to private, rather than public, interests.

With surrounding legislation expected to reach Parliament from next week, Ludlam said greater visibility would ensure these concerns did not become reality.

"I think it would help all of the crossbenchers if the Minister could be a bit freer about disclosing information before being expected to debate bills."

Listen to the full speech by Senator Stephen Conroy and Senator Lindsay Tanner.

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Tags NBNThe GreensNational Broadband Network (NBN)Senator Scott LudlamNBN Implementation Study

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