The Opposition has described the National Broadband Network company's (NBN Co) $11 billion deal with Telstra as Labor's "desperate" attempt to progress the National Broadband Network "by throwing billions of dollars of taxpayers' cash at it", adding that it would cancel the deal if elected.
This afternoon Telstra revealed it had signed a preliminary deal with NBN Co that would see the telco migrate its telephone and broadband customers onto the fibre National Broadband Network, with its copper (ADSL) network to be shut down and no more broadband services to be provided over its hybrid-fibre coaxial cable network.
"Today's announcement is designed to mask the fact that after almost three years, [Prime Minister Kevin] Rudd has failed to deliver a single new connection under the guide of an NBN," said a statement issued by the Opposition from the offices of Shadow Communications Minister Tony Smith and Shadow Finance Minister Andrew Robb.
"Clearly, because the Coalition does not support Labor's reckless NBN, we would not proceed with this arrangement if elected."
"What value are taxpayers getting for the $9 billion which is to be handed over to Telstra?" the statement asked. "Labor claims this is justified to reduce the cost to taxpayers of building the NBN — but this hugely expensive and risky venture is something that no responsible government would contemplate in the first place."
The Opposition said it did not believe it was the role of government to force taxpayers to spend billions of dollars to build and/or buy businesses in areas where the private sector was able to perform the role.
The statement also pointed out that the Telstra deal was conditional on a range of requirements being met, as well as shareholder approval. "It is clear that if any agreement is to be reached, it will not be finalised for many months, well after the federal election," the statement said.
"Prior to the next election the Coalition will outline a responsible alternative policy to deliver fast, reliable and affordable broadband," the statement said. "Our policy will be responsible and deliverable."