Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has said he will be "pragmatic" in broadband policy negotiations with the three regional independent MPs who will determine which major party forms a minority government in what looks to be a hung parliament.
In a three-minute-long press conference held yesterday, Abbott said the Labor Government had "lost its legitimacy" by losing its majority in the lower house in the election held on Saturday. Abbott indicated he had begun "having discussions to have discussions" with the three former-National Party independents Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter.
"Obviously, I accept broadband is important because I put forward a very good broadband policy," Abbott said. "I don't want to pre-empt the discussions I expect will be had over the next few days just to say I intend to be very pragmatic, but within the broad policy parameters which we discussed during the election."
Windsor told 7:30 Report host Kerry O'Brien last night that broadband "and how it relates to the delivery of health and education and business services in the long term" was one of the most important issues influencing his decision on who should form government.
"We can really open up the inland of Australia with the technology that really removes location of being of any importance," he told Sky News.
Armidale, which is part of Windsor's electorate, was one of the first five mainland sites chosen for the National Broadband Network (NBN), but Windsor has not indicated which party's proposal he prefers.
"I don't trust either of them. [The Coalition] promised equity of access; they did nothing," he said. "A lot of the Labor Party's plan [is written] on the back of a cigarette packet too."
"The promise is one thing, the delivery is another," he added.
Townsville, the first mainland site to have construction begin for the NBN, resides in part of Katter's electorate. Katter has said his decision will be based on what is best for his electorate.
Oakeshott welcomed the announcement in July this year that Coffs Harbour would be included in the next phase of the NBN roll-out.
"The fact they have now chosen a site on the coast forces them to connect to both Sydney and Brisbane, and this is where the benefits of this announcement are shared by many, and hopefully well within the eight-year time frame as previously announced by government. At this stage, we are definitely ahead of the rest and this is a good sign for our future," Oakeshott said in July.
Liberal Senator Nick Minchin has said that he believes the Coalition's broadband policy is more appealing to the independent MPs because it is "more economically responsible".
The Greens Party, whose candidate Adam Bandt picked up departing Finance and Deregulation Minister Lindsay Tanner's seat of Melbourne, is strongly in favour of the NBN and it is widely expected that the Greens will side with the Labor Party in any minority government formed.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Stephen Conroy told ABC News Radio this morning that the differences between the NBN and the Coalition's broadband plan were clear for the regional MPs.
"Tony Abbott has offered a $6 billion [plan] that will deliver only 10 per cent of services to rural Australia ... in first three years," he said. "They are locking in a digital divide in regional Australia."