Labor backbench senator, Kate Lundy, has described the Opposition’s stance on the national broadband network (NBN) as “absolutely appalling” and “schizophrenic”.
In recent weeks, the Liberal party has come out swinging at the government’s plan to roll out a fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network.
Speaking at the National Press Club today, shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, called the NBN a white elephant and repeated his claim that optic fibre is a “technology bet”.
The NBN has become a key election issue, with the Liberal party set to scrap the endeavour should it take power.
Lundy, however, said the concept of bridging the digital divide, which had informed many previous high-speed broadband debates in the past, had been lost in recent weeks.
“I’ve been talking about the digital divide my whole political career, and even before politics – so that is 14 years. Because I have that history, it is such a no-brainer that we are making this investment,” she said.
“You have the other major party having quite a schizophrenic line about, ‘hurry about and build it, why haven’t you built it?’, to ‘don’t build it yet because we want to see a business case’, to now officially opposing the NBN. It is kind of ignoring that whole history of what has been an incredibly bipartisan: ‘who can do this better, faster, quicker and cheaper for the citizens of Australia?’, which has been the nature of the debate up until now.
“All of my critiques through my Opposition years was 'you can do it better'. There should be better competition, there should be fatter pipes, and there should be less pair gain systems. That character of the debate has been suddenly flipped on its head because the Opposition is now opposing it. I think that is absolutely appalling. I am quite distressed there aren’t enough people within the Liberal party and National party to say ‘hang on a minute, this is a core belief that we have fought out for on terms of who can do it better up until now’."
The barbs have been flying thick and fast in the NBN debate, with several mainstream media outlets now paying more attention to the project since the Government’s emissions trading scheme was put on the back burner.
Lundy went on to describe the existing debate over the NBN as “quite a big moment in ICT policy, because a universal high-speed access network has always been first base for me in what is important to Australia.
“I’m at a bit of a loss because the Opposition can’t even seek refuge in Telstra, because Telstra has said its copper network is five minutes to midnight. And I know enough about it to know ADSL technology will never deliver what we need as a nation going forward.”
Read more about the arguments surrounding the NBN in Computerworld’s NBN arguments 101 series