Tasmanian Labor pushes NBN plan

Summary:The Tasmanian government has upped the ante on the National Broadband Network, after the Liberal opposition appeared to concede that the issue could cost it next month's state election.

Tasmanian Labor premier Lara Giddings has sought to capitalise on a remark from Opposition Leader Will Hodgman, caught by cameras before a press conference, that the contentious NBN rollout is losing the Liberals votes.

"This could cost us the election," Hodgman reportedly said. "Anyway, that's democracy."

The NBN has exploded as an election issue since its executive chairman Ziggy Switkowski confirmed that the rollout in Tasmania would use existing copper wire rather than fibre from next year.

Giddings has branded the move a broken promise by the Abbott government, after it said it would honour existing contracts before last year's federal poll.

It has since emerged that the contracts did not specify that fibre would be used.

Tasmania was one of the first regions to begin receiving the NBN.

Last year, Giddings proposed overhead cabling on state-owned electricity company Aurora's poles to cut the cost of the troubled rollout, a move supported by the state Liberals.

On Tuesday, the premier offered those poles rent free in an AU$25 million bid to keep the NBN centre stage in the lead-up to the March 15 election.

"There is now nothing standing in the way of the Liberal Party delivering what it promised to Tasmanian homes and businesses," Giddings said.

Labor's position was backed by independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie, who accused the Abbott government of misleading Tasmanians when in opposition.

"They clearly gave the impression that fibre would be rolled out to the premises," he said.

Wilkie said the issue would be a "vote changer" at the state election, which polls suggest the Liberals will win.

Hodgman supports a fibre-to-the-premises rollout, but federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull was lukewarm on Giddings' offer, which she said would reduce rollout costs from AU$400 per metre to AU$65.

"The offer that Lara Giddings has made is certainly worth the NBN Co looking at, but is a very small part of the overall cost," Turnbull told ABC radio.

"She's not really offering very much."

The Tasmanian Greens announced a policy to start their own company to complete the NBN rollout with fibre to the premises.

Topics: NBN, Government : AU

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