Tasmanian Liberal Senator Guy Barnett has slammed both the Tasmanian Premier and the Federal Government for not resolving the problem of poor broadband coverage in the state.
Senator Guy Barnett
(Credit: Guy Barnett's office )
Barnett said that Premier Bartlett should have made the Basslink fibre cable an issue at the recent Council of Australian Governments meeting. "Tasmanian taxpayers have been paying close to $2 million a year in rent for a cable lying dormant on the sea floor. This is a disgrace," he said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Barnett said the aim of bringing the issue up would have been "to see if any pressure could be brought to bear from a federal level", which it was hoped would bring the endless waiting for the cable to become operational to a close. "The State Government's done all they can do," the spokesperson said.
The recent expressions of confidence from both sides of the negotiations had not raised Barnett's confidence in the venture, the spokesperson said. "They expressed confidence back in June, July, August. We're still waiting."
Barnett also expressed a lack of faith that the planned national broadband network would bring backhaul competition to the state any time soon. "As for waiting for federal Labor's national broadband network, the likelihood of the NBN even touching on Tasmania by 2012 is looking more and more remote. The tender process has been a shambles, and the plan looks to start in the major cities and grow out to the regions, leaving Tasmania as a last priority," he said.
Barnett's spokesperson acknowledged the roll-out order would depend on who was chosen for the bid.
However, even if Basslink was switched on, it wouldn't necessarily change the situation, the spokesperson said. Some companies could be chary of using providers operating purely over Basslink because of a lack of redundancy, meaning that providers would still have to deal with Telstra, which currently provides backhaul into the state.
Another cable on top of Basslink could help, however, the spokesperson for Barnett said that the national broadband network tender documents suggested that overbuild was not in the project's scope. "In the tender documents it says that infrastructure duplication should be avoided," the spokesperson said. "Unfortunately, that's what Tasmania needs."
In response to the comments, Tasmanian treasurer Michael Aird said Basslink had "nothing to do with CoAG". "Senator Barnett displays his ignorance and how out of touch he is with this issue," he told ZDNet.com.au by email.