As Kevin Rudd prepares to challenge Prime Minister Julia Gillard for the Labor leadership on Monday, the Coalition is calling for an election as soon as possible, but Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is still holding out on releasing costings for the alternative broadband plan he would take to the election.
(Credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull)
The Federal Labor caucus will hold a ballot at 10am on Monday to determine the leadership of the Labor party.
A number of ministers have lined up to support the Prime Minister in her bid to keep the top job, including Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Attorney-General Nicola Roxon.
Meanwhile, at the Broadcasting 2012 summit in Sydney today, Turnbull devoted a good portion of his speech to mocking the leadership spectacle between Rudd and Gillard, joking that the most pressing matter for the Australian Communications and Media Authority was to determine whether the leadership battle would be classified as "Australian drama content".
Turnbull shrugged off suggestions from Independent MP Rob Oakeshott this morning that Turnbull should have another run at the Liberal party leadership — instead saying that voters wanted another election. Yet, he would not say whether the Coalition had a broadband policy costed and ready for a pending election.
"I'm not going to be trapped into picking a particular figure like that. We would not have gone about this in the way they have done, but ... we have got to make the best of the mess they have left us with."
However, Turnbull was ready to provide an estimate that will scale back the fibre deployment in brownfields areas to fibre to the cabinet 500 metres or a kilometre from the home, which would save about a third of the costs of the NBN roll-out.
"If you can reduce the civil works through not overbuilding infrastructure that is capable of providing effective high-speed broadband and using legacy infrastructure where you can, particularly in the last kilometre or 500 metres or so, in a way that does not compromise your broadband objective, you can dramatically reduce costs," he told journalists at a press conference after the speech.
"It depends on the geography, but the best ballpark figure I can give you is overall, in terms of averages, a fibre-to-the-cabinet approach in brownfield areas is about a third of the cost of fibre to the premises."
Turnbull again promised to deliver fast broadband quicker than the NBN, and at a more affordable price for consumers, but he said that, should the Coalition get into power, as communications minister he wouldn't "rip up the NBN" or bring an end to NBN Co.
"We can't turn the clock back," he said. "We're stuck with NBN Co and we're stuck with the NBN."
Depending on the outcome of Monday's ballot, Conroy's future as the communications minister is unclear. Should Rudd regain leadership, given Conroy's strong public comments against his former leader yesterday, it is unlikely he would remain in the Cabinet.