Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has slammed calls from Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to cancel the National Broadband Network (NBN) in order to fund recovery efforts for the disastrous Queensland floods, stating Abbott was "robbing" Australia of its future.
In the days after the horrific floods that ravaged parts of Queensland, Abbott called for the government to scrap the $36.5 billion project to fund the repairs. Following Prime Minister Julia Gillard's announcement yesterday of a new levy to pay for the costs of repair (estimated at $5.6 billion), Abbott once again called for the cancellation of the project.
"So, look, I'm against the NBN and I certainly think that as far as the general public of flood-ravaged Queensland and Victoria are concerned, what they want is restored roads, restored railways, bridges that you can safely cross," Abbott said at a press conference in Sydney yesterday. "They don't necessarily want more interactive gambling or more movie downloads."
Conroy today labelled the opposition leader's calls as an attempt to "rob Australia's future in order to score a cheap — and tasteless — political point.
"Tony Abbott's repeated calls to scrap investment in the NBN — now shamefully using the devastating floods as his latest justification — demonstrate not only his inability to grasp basic economic principles, but a woeful ignorance of the productivity benefits that the NBN will create," Conroy said in a statement.
"Investing in infrastructure like the NBN is exactly what we need to build a strong economy — and it's a strong economy that will help communities affected by the floods rebuild and recover."
Conroy said that taxpayer investment in the project would repay itself "many times over".
"Mr Abbott's short-sightedness is a danger to Australia's future prosperity and security," he said. "Imagine if politicians in the 19th and 20th centuries had stopped building crucial economic infrastructure every time there was a natural disaster."
The Coalition is not alone in calling for a review of the project. The Australian Business Council has also called for the NBN project to be re-evaluated in light of the floods.