Will NBN build stop until govt chaos over?

The National Broadband Network Company would not confirm this morning whether it will continue to roll out optic fibre around the nation while Australia's Parliament attempts to resolve whether the Coalition or Labor will form government.

The National Broadband Network Company would not confirm this morning whether it will continue to roll out optic fibre around the nation while Australia's Parliament attempts to resolve whether the Coalition or Labor will form government.

Yesterday's election resulted in a hung parliament, with neither Labor nor the Coalition able to form government immediately. The situation could take up to a week to resolve according to some commentators.

Yet NBN Co this morning refused to confirm or deny whether it will continue to follow Labor's NBN policy by rolling out fibre around Australia this week.

NBN Co has been rolling out fibre to a number of early stage release sites around Australia, with some sites, such as Townsville, having received significant political attention during the campaign. However, the Coalition has pledged to cancel the NBN roll-out if it wins government.

Katherine Sainty, a communications and media lawyer and director of Sainty Law, said that it was appropriate for NBN Co not to comment due to the company's wholly government-owned nature.

The lawyer said she would expect NBN Co not to enter into any new significant arrangements such as putting new contracts out to tender until the parliamentary chaos was resolved, as the company would be more or less in a caretaker mode.

However, she said that because of its nature as a commercial company, she would expect it to continue to deliver on its legal obligations, such as arrangements with contractors to roll out the early stage release sites.

The players

None of the politicians who take major roles in shaping Australia's telecommunications industry lost their seats last night. According to the ABC's election site, with 72.21 per cent of Victoria's Senate vote counted, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Industry Minister Kim Carr were easily returned to Parliament.

Shadow Communications Minister Tony Smith looks set to survive a 1.6 per cent swing to the ALP in his seat of Casey, and it's a similar case for Finance Spokesperson Andrew Robb in Goldstein, Paul Fletcher in Bradfield and Malcolm Turnbull in Wentworth. Greens Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam wasn't up for election in the Senate due to the upper house's longer term, but the Greens did win the balance of power in the Senate, and Labor Senator Kate Lundy was also returned.

The future

The future of the National Broadband Network is still in doubt at the moment, depending on whether either the Coalition or Labor can form government with support from the independents.

Independent Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott made it very clear that telecommunications was on his agenda. He mentioned on the ABC's election coverage last night that mobile phone coverage was one problem in his electorate, noting that you didn't "have to be Einstein" to work out it was an issue.

Later on, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young commented that Oakeshott had clearly said that he wanted to improve telecommunications.

"Have we got a plan for him," quipped Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith replied, apparently referring to the NBN policy.

Independent North Queensland MP Bob Katter has refused to say if he'll back Labor or the coalition to form government, but said that he and fellow independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor should vote as a block to decide the nation's political future. He said he expected to meet with them within the next two days.

Katter said that improving broadband infrastructure was high on his agenda.

"A privatised broadband, I mean, please, don't even talk about it, privatised Telstra has been absolutely disastrous for rural Australia," he said.

A possible fourth independent, former Greens candidate Andrew Wilkie, along with Melbourne Greens candidate Adam Bandt, are expected to side with Labor.

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