The new Opposition communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has wasted no time in going on the attack, touting his credentials and laying into Labor’s National Broadband Network (NBN).
“Having been involved in the Internet sector since 1994 I can attest to the extraordinary growth in every aspect of telecommunications and information technology,” Turnbull said in a statement shortly following his appointment to the communications portfolio.
“While there are great opportunities to be realised in the Internet economy, so too are there great risks. ‘Build it and they will come’ is no substitute for rational financial analysis. A press release drafted on the back of a drink coaster is no substitute for a thorough business plan.”
Turnbull argued that nobody was more committed to the availability of high speed Internet access than himself, however Labor’s NBN was problematic due to its lack of a business plan or a cost-benefit analysis.
“What little we know of the economics of this network is sufficient to assure us that the NBN as currently conceived will destroy billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money,” Turnbull said. “In other words, the asset constructed for $43 billion will be worth a fraction of that amount.”
Turnbull also reiterated the Coalition’s argument that its OPEL plan would already be delivering higher speed broadband services to Australians.
“The tragedy of the Rudd/Gillard Government’s incompetent handling of broadband over the past three years is that, if Labor had instead proceeded with the Coalition’s 2007 plan for subsidised rural and regional broadband, these areas would have quality services today,” Turnbull said.
The Shadow communications minister also claimed that, as a result of Labor’s deal with independent MPs Rob Oakshott and Tony Windsor to prioritise the NBN’s rollout in regional areas, the cost of the national infrastructure project would increase.
“That’s no doubt beneficial for internet users in whichever rural regions Labor plans to favour first, but bad news for consumers in other under-served areas such as the outer suburbs,” Turnbull said. “The switch will also greatly increase the total amount of capital the Government needs to commit to the NBN.
“Senator Conroy has not yet been honest with the Australian people about these financial implications for the NBN of Labor’s negotiations with the independents. He must do so now.”