Even if the business case for the National Broadband Network (NBN) stacks up, many companies that have gone bankrupt started out with positive business cases, Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said yesterday.
(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)
"[I] have seen dozens if not hundreds of business plans that all look fantastic. They can produce a business plan with good numbers in it but that doesn't guarantee success. There is not one bankrupt business that didn't start off with a fabulous business plan," Turnbull said at a Vocus datacentre launch in Sydney yesterday. "They couldn't have gotten the credit if they didn't have the business plan."
After sitting on the document for over a month, it is expected that Communications Minister Stephen Conroy will release a censored version of the 400-page NBN business case by tomorrow at the latest.
Turnbull said he doesn't expect the document to contain all the financial details.
"The most recent intelligence we have is that it is going to be shorn of all relevant financial detail; there won't be any assumptions about take-up, there won't be any assumptions about wholesale pricing. I don't know how it could be a meaningful document without it."
The shadow minister went as far as to say he didn't think the project would ever be completed.
"The view of people who know a lot more about networks and the grittiness of rolling out networks to homes and businesses ... is they think it will end up costing a lot more than they've estimated," he said. "I don't know anyone who thinks it will ever be completed. So what do you do with a partly built NBN?"
He said the failure of the project could potentially cast a shadow over the ICT industry in Australia.
"It's a bit of a dream the old NBN. It appeals to dreamers," he said. "But if you're stuck in traffic or you can't get a train and you're wondering why there's no money invested in that... people before long will be blaming the NBN. Which won't be good for the industry because frankly it will give the internet industry a bad rap because people will be very disappointed."
Turnbull said he wasn't too concerned in being named in any of the US diplomatic cables as they are leaked through whistleblower website Wikileaks.
"I think it would be very flattering to be mentioned in dispatches, if you can be mentioned flatteringly," he said. "I always thought Mark Arbib was a double agent, I just didn't know who he was working for. It's nice to know he's working for the Americans."