Claims from former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy that the Coalition has abandoned plans to do a cost-benefit analysis into the economic and social costs and benefits of the National Broadband Network (NBN) are false, according to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
On Friday, in his first speech since stepping down as communications minister in June, Conroy said that the attacks Turnbull made against the former government for not doing a cost-benefit analysis were "complete bull****" because the Coalition had abandoned plans for the Productivity Commission to do a cost-benefit analysis.
The commission is seen to have close ties to the Department of Communications, then called the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE), because its new chair is the former head of DBCDE Peter Harris.
In a blog post this afternoon, Turnbull indicated that the review would still go ahead, but would now be undertaken by a "review panel", members of which will be announced shortly.
As was outlined in the Coalition's National Broadband Network (NBN) policy, the panel will be tasked to analyse the social costs and direct and indirect benefits of the availability of broadband delivered via various technologies. The panel will have six months to report back to the government the value of increased broadband speeds, and how much this should be supported by government, the ownership situation for NBN Co, and the pricing, capital investment, competition, and product environment for the NBN.
It comes as Conroy was today appointed deputy Labor leader in the Senate under Senate Labor leader Penny Wong. New Labor leader Bill Shorten is expected to announce his new shadow ministry on Friday. Hopefuls for the Communications portfolio Kate Lundy and Ed Husic were left out of the running when the full list of the Shadow Cabinet was released on Monday.
At a press conference in Canberra today, Conroy criticised the government for not holding Senate Estimates hearings in 2013, stating that the government is "running and hiding already" from scrutiny over its handling of operations such as the NBN. He specifically called out reports that new NBN Co executive chairman Ziggy Switkowski has met with regulatory economist and long-time NBN critic Henry Ergas.
NBN Co is currently undertaking a 60-day review of the management of the project and the company, and is due to report back to government in early December.