Senate NBN committee says scrap it, don't scrap it

Members predictably split on whether to proceed with the NBN

The Senate select committee on the National Broadband Network (NBN) has recommended scrapping the project.

However, the non-Liberal/National party minority representatives on the seven-member panel disagree.

In its Fourth Interim Report, the committee provided 28 recommendations, including to provide more detailed cost-benefit of the NBN and a fast response to the Implementation Study, along with calling on NBN Co to “release a detailed implementation plan describing how and when services will be provided to specified regional and remote locations, and what the cost of connection will be for regional householders”.

“The committee feels that the Implementation Study is an exercise in retrofitting a justification for the Government's commitment rather than adequately explaining how the NBN can and/or should be implemented,” the report reads.

It goes on to say, “The committee believes that no credible case has been made for the NBN in its current form and agrees with respected independent analysts that there are too many questions left unanswered and too many gaps in the case in favour of the NBN for the committee to support the NBN in its current form.”

However, Labor senators Kate Lundy and Glenn Sterle, took a starkly different position in their minority report.

“Opposition Senators display a perplexing inconsistency in their backward looking view of this nation building initiative,” they wrote.

“They say they don’t want an FTTH network yet they recognise it as a superior technology. They say that the NBN is no good for the mainland – and that they’ll abandon it - but it’s good for Tasmania. They complain that they can see little progress yet they take every opportunity to obstruct the roll-out of the network. They say they cannot judge the merits of the NBN before they see the Implementation Study; yet they declared that they will abandon it before the Study was released. They said they could not consider any NBN-related legislation before seeing the Implementation Study but they announce that they will not pass anything anyway. And they say the NBN costs too much but they recommend measures that will make it more costly.”

Additional comments from Greens senator, Scott Ludlam, note he does not agree with the Liberal/National majority that the “absence of a cost-benefit analysis alone justifies abandoning the NBN”, although such an exercise would be useful.

“However, a cost-benefit analysis for the project as a whole would be a far more speculative endeavour than the majority suggests and would not result in a clear and incontestable conclusion with regard to whether the NBN should proceed,” Ludlam wrote. “Such an analysis would need to anticipate and evaluate the range of uses that will be enabled by a nationwide high speed network over the course of its lifetime and their economic and social impacts, and then pit those against the likely costs and impacts of not building the network, or building a different sort of network. Certainty will not be found through this kind of crystal ball gazing.”

Members of the committee include: chair and Liberal senator, Ian Macdonald; deputy chair and the National’s Fiona Nash; Liberal senator, Simon Birmingham; Liberal senator, Mary Jo Fisher; the Green’s senator Scott Ludlam; and Labor senators, Kate Lundy and Glenn Sterle.

Read the full report.

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Tags NBNSenator Kate LundyNational Broadband Network (NBN)Scott LudlamSenate Select Committee

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