Fletcher coy on Coalition ICT policy

Says he's root-and-branch opposed to NBN

Liberal MP Paul Fletcher has remained coy on his suggested involvement in the formulation of the Coalition’s dormant broadband policy.

The member for Bradfield, and former regulatory chief at Optus, would not deny claims from policy insiders of his close involvement in Opposition telecommunications policy, and said only that he had made suggestions.

Asked if he would contribute substantially more than other MPs, given his near two decades in the ICT sector, Fletcher said only that he was “not aware of suggestions made by other members," so could not comment.

“I am root-and-branch opposed to Labor’s NBN policy and the notion that structural separation bought with many billions of taxpayers' money is one I absolutely repudiate,” Fletcher said at a Sydney press event.

“The best way to [develop broadband] is to let the private sector do that with targeted public investment in areas of market failure. All of the investment in the mobile sector is private and... in some ways public investment is likely to suppress innovation and investment.”

One source close to policy development and Fletcher told Computerworld Australia the member for Bradfield was shelving private support of the NBN to toe party lines.

Labor ACT Senator, Kate Lundy, also speaking at the event, said Fletcher was in a “difficult” position because of his party’s opposition to the NBN.

“The market failed to make the investment. We have one of the most visionary telecommunications policies and strategies. The heat of the political campaign is distorting the Liberal’s response,” Lundy said.

Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam, also attending, said an NBN Co should not be privatised, claiming such a move would “effectively reverse” competitive achievements similar to those sought in the structural separation of Telstra.

He said the Coalition’s call for a cost-benefit analysis of the NBN was “farcical”, and added that a cost analysis could not be made using “imaginary numbers”.

“How can you tell what the cost benefits are to health? It is easy to do but there are no numbers," he said. "I strongly believe the NBN will pay off."

Australian Information and Industry Association (AIIA) chief executive, Ian Birks, has confirmed that Federal communications minister, Stephen Conroy, will announce the Gillard Government's key broadband and ICT policies in Melbourne tomorrow.

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Tags Federal Election 2010paul fletcherNational Broadband Network (NBN)

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