A contingent of Liberal Party MPs who sat on the Joint Select Committee into the National Broadband Network (NBN) have slammed the committee's report, saying that the hearings and the outcomes listed in the report were nothing more than a political stunt.
The final report that came out of the Joint Select Committee was positive of the NBN, making several recommendations, including the continued roll-out of the NBN in smaller, pilot areas, the continuation of the National Digital Economy Strategy and the continuation of its digital literacy training.
The report also recommended that the government develop several key new strategies to ensure the successful roll-out of the NBN and the Digital Economy Strategy, including a new strategy to minimise copyright infringement via the NBN, developed through industry and strategies around managing the workforce, to ensure that correct skills training is applied to address potential gaps in the workforce during the construction of the NBN.
However, in a dissenting report attached to the government's final report on the public hearings, coalition MPs Paul Fletcher, Paul Neville and Jane Prentice said that the inquiry was "a highly political exercise" held at the wrong time.
"It was designed to be a political exercise, drumming up supportive testimony in favour of the NBN and resulting in a feel-good report offering support for the roll-out of the NBN," the MPs said in their dissenting report.
The coalition said that to be successful, the inquiry should have taken place before ex-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced a plan to spend $43 billion deploying a fibre to the home network.
"There is little point in investigating the benefits to be secured from the NBN over 18 months after the decision has been taken. The clear aim of this inquiry was to generate political support for the NBN," the coalition said, adding that it was equally foolish not to consider a cost-benefit analysis before embarking on the project.
"Seeking to assess the benefits of a project such as the NBN, without a consideration of the costs, is a fairly pointless exercise."
The MPs said that by not conducting a cost-benefit analysis into the fibre project, the Rudd-Gillard government contradicted its own infrastructure project policy and claimed that excluding the NBN from any cost assessment via the committee Infrastructure Australia only hamstrung the inquiry.
"In conducting this inquiry, the committee should have made an assessment of the benefits of the NBN and weighed them up against the costs. Unfortunately, this approach was specifically ruled out, despite it being proposed by coalition members."
The coalition and its shadow communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, have been calling for a cost-benefit analysis into the NBN for over a year.
The coalition added in its dissenting report that the NBN hearings presented no clear reason for 100Mbps fibre to the home.
"There were very few persuasive examples given of applications which actually require the 100Mbps speeds that the NBN will deliver," Fletcher said in a statement today.
Yet, Chinese telecommunications company Huawei today came out in support of the final 400-page report, adding that the report represents a boon for the future of a fully digital and inclusive society.
"The report makes it clear that the debate must move beyond 'pits and pipes', and onto what Australia will do with high-speed broadband — building not just a network, but a networked society," said Jeremy Mitchell, Huawei Australia's corporate and public affairs director.
"High-speed broadband will re-shape government services, healthcare, education, infrastructure, the environment and even communities themselves — we've seen it firsthand, where we are rolling out fibre networks in the UK, Singapore, Malaysia, the UAE and Brunei," Mitchell added.