Opinion: Abbott's posturing not a good sign for NBN backers

Liberal leader showing signs he will continue to oppose NBN on cost basis, but has yet to give an alternative
Will the NBN be a white elephant?

Will the NBN be a white elephant?

The Liberal Party is yet to come out with an official position on the National Broadband Network (NBN), but the early signs emanating from its ranks are not good those hoping for a change of heart from the opposition on the $43 billion infrastructure project.

Liberal leader, Tony Abbott, appeared to reveal his stance on the NBN during the first sitting of Parliament for the new year, which was dominated by a debate around climate change and Labor's emissions trading scheme (ETS).

Backing up his new climate change policy, which is expected to cost $3.2 billion over four years and $10 billion over a decade, Abbott attempted to leverage the Rudd government's failure to provide a cost-benefit analysis of its network plan.

"With a Government that wants to spend $43 billion on an national broadband network white elephant without even a business plan, surely it's not too much to spend $3.2 billion on the greatest moral challenge of our time and that's what we will do," Abbott told Parliament.

Although one comment is far from compelling evidence, the magnitude of the climate change debate in the existing political circumstances combined with Abbott's choice to compare his own plan to a "white elephant" NBN does not bode well for backers of the fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) plan.

It certainly doesn't mean the NBN rollout won't go ahead, but it is a sign the opposition will continue to oppose it as it did when Nick Minchin was shadow communications minister and pushed the cost angle in the debate.

So far, like his predecessor, the new shadow communications minister, Tony Smith, has failed to come up with any new policies or provide the ICT industry and public at large with a reasonable alternative to the NBN plan as it now stands.

The opposition has also remained tight-lipped over the possible separation of Telstra (ASX:TLS) and pretty much everything else to do with the major issues facing the ICT industry, remaining surprisingly mute even on Senator Stephen Conroy's controversial ISP-level internet content filter.

Many would agree with Abbott's view that the NBN is a white elephant of sorts, but others in the ICT industry may be wondering whether it doesn't have a sibling in the room given the abysmal lack of action from the Liberals on key issues.