Shadow communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has confirmed he would support the National Broadband Network (NBN), should a proposed cost-benefit analysis from the Productivity Commission find in favour of its rollout.
Appearing on SBS’s Insight program this week, Turnbull said the analysis - proposed in a private members’ bill he introduced to Parliament last week - could provide a persuasive case.
“I think if the Productivity Commission gave us a very big tick, it would be incredibly persuasive and I think most people would expect everybody to support it then - that would be incredibly persuasive,” he said.
“Barnaby Joyce said that if the Productivity Commission gave it a tick he would grow wings and fly around the room and support it so there is a very big commitment from Barnaby.”
Turnbull attacked the Federal Government for failing to do a cost-benefit analysis in the first place. Yet Turnbull’s comments, a reiteration of what he said earlier in the week, mark a significant turnaround for the coalition, which was previously unwilling to support the NBN regardless of whether or not a cost-benefit analysis was carried out.
However, Turnbull’s proposed bill must first be voted through Parliament in order to commission the analysis. While the bill may find support in some of the independent MPs, Tony Windsor affirmed his reluctance to agree to an analysis.
“I will leave that until I see Malcolm's bill in the parliament and listen to the debate,” he said on Insight. “I have some issues in relation to the assumptions and Malcolm agrees. You are making an assumption about future technology that may be able to use the fibre cable at some time in the future. So I don't know whether Gary Banks has a crystal ball in terms of what these services - what this - the fibre optic cable will be used for 5, 10, 15, 20 years.
“Tony Abbott's agenda, in my view, is to stop it, not just to check it - to stop it and I think there's enough information out there now for me to support it.”
Windsor also said he would not support proposed amendments to the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010 from the Opposition to prevent a structural separation of Telstra’s retail and wholesale arms, which Turnbull labelled anti-competitive and protective of NBN economics.
“I can't listen to two people at once! I'm a man! In terms of cost benefit analysis, he recognises they are only as good as the assumptions you put in,” Windsor said. “Malcolm, your Government supported the Adelaide-to-Darwin railway line. The benefit cost analysis said it was a dud – it is a dud.”