Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull has said that delays and blowouts in the next stage of the National Broadband Network (NBN) project show that the Federal Government has let taxpayers down.
On Wednesday, NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy released an updated plan covering the next three years to mid-2015.
It showed that construction costs will rise by 3.9 per cent to AU$37.4 billion, leading to a six-month extension in the construction timetable, to June 2021.
Turnbull said that the plan, which updates the initial program laid out in December 2010, showed that more investment would come from the Commonwealth.
"Labor's National Broadband Network is falling disastrously behind every benchmark the government has set for it except one: the amount of taxpayers' money being spent," he said in a statement.
An increase in "indirect" operating expenses — primarily staff costs — from AU$3.7 billion to AU$7.8 billion is "even more insulting to taxpayers", Turnbull said.
"NBN Co may not be able to put together a budget or roll out a network, but it knows how to take care of itself," he said.
He said that NBN Co should be given a definitive budget to stick to.
"And the Productivity Commission should be asked to conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis to assess the most efficient means of upgrading Australians' broadband as quickly as possible," Turnbull said.
Turnbull has said previously that a coalition government would deliver broadband services through a cheaper and quicker plan, albeit at slower speeds, through a mix of copper, fibre, wireless and satellite technologies.
While the cost of the project is set to go up, NBN Co also identified a number of savings that it has been able to make in the roll-out, such as volume discounts for equipment; making battery backup units voluntary, which it says will save "hundreds of millions of dollars"; and rolling out fibre to the premises from the start, unless premises opt out of the roll-out.
Conroy yesterday said that Turnbull is set on "sabotaging" the NBN.
"Malcolm Turnbull is engaged in an act of sabotage on the NBN," he said. "He wants to pretend that he is going to complete the NBN. It's not the NBN that we're talking about.
"Malcolm Turnbull has made a whole range of inconsistent statements."
When asked yesterday about Turnbull's proposed scaled-back proposal, Quigley indicated that it would require a lot of work.
"You need to do a complete architectural design of the network again. As far as I'm aware, the only people that can do fibre to the node are incumbents. They own the copper. If you're going to do fibre to the node, the first thing you need to do is get access to the copper tail. It's a complete architectural redesign."
Conroy said that Turnbull's argument — that his roll-out would cost one third of the current NBN plan — is based on the assumption that the roll-out would be done by an incumbent like Telstra.