NBN committee a political stunt: Libs

NBN committee a political stunt: Libs

Summary: A contingent of Liberal Party MPs who sat on the Joint Select Committee into the National Broadband Network (NBN) have slammed the committee's report, saying that the hearings and the outcomes listed in the report were nothing more than a political stunt.

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A contingent of Liberal Party MPs who sat on the Joint Select Committee into the National Broadband Network (NBN) have slammed the committee's report, saying that the hearings and the outcomes listed in the report were nothing more than a political stunt.

The final report that came out of the Joint Select Committee was positive of the NBN, making several recommendations, including the continued roll-out of the NBN in smaller, pilot areas, the continuation of the National Digital Economy Strategy and the continuation of its digital literacy training.

The report also recommended that the government develop several key new strategies to ensure the successful roll-out of the NBN and the Digital Economy Strategy, including a new strategy to minimise copyright infringement via the NBN, developed through industry and strategies around managing the workforce, to ensure that correct skills training is applied to address potential gaps in the workforce during the construction of the NBN.

However, in a dissenting report attached to the government's final report on the public hearings, coalition MPs Paul Fletcher, Paul Neville and Jane Prentice said that the inquiry was "a highly political exercise" held at the wrong time.

"It was designed to be a political exercise, drumming up supportive testimony in favour of the NBN and resulting in a feel-good report offering support for the roll-out of the NBN," the MPs said in their dissenting report.

The coalition said that to be successful, the inquiry should have taken place before ex-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced a plan to spend $43 billion deploying a fibre to the home network.

"There is little point in investigating the benefits to be secured from the NBN over 18 months after the decision has been taken. The clear aim of this inquiry was to generate political support for the NBN," the coalition said, adding that it was equally foolish not to consider a cost-benefit analysis before embarking on the project.

"Seeking to assess the benefits of a project such as the NBN, without a consideration of the costs, is a fairly pointless exercise."

The MPs said that by not conducting a cost-benefit analysis into the fibre project, the Rudd-Gillard government contradicted its own infrastructure project policy and claimed that excluding the NBN from any cost assessment via the committee Infrastructure Australia only hamstrung the inquiry.

"In conducting this inquiry, the committee should have made an assessment of the benefits of the NBN and weighed them up against the costs. Unfortunately, this approach was specifically ruled out, despite it being proposed by coalition members."

The coalition and its shadow communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, have been calling for a cost-benefit analysis into the NBN for over a year.

The coalition added in its dissenting report that the NBN hearings presented no clear reason for 100Mbps fibre to the home.

"There were very few persuasive examples given of applications which actually require the 100Mbps speeds that the NBN will deliver," Fletcher said in a statement today.

Yet, Chinese telecommunications company Huawei today came out in support of the final 400-page report, adding that the report represents a boon for the future of a fully digital and inclusive society.

"The report makes it clear that the debate must move beyond 'pits and pipes', and onto what Australia will do with high-speed broadband — building not just a network, but a networked society," said Jeremy Mitchell, Huawei Australia's corporate and public affairs director.

"High-speed broadband will re-shape government services, healthcare, education, infrastructure, the environment and even communities themselves — we've seen it firsthand, where we are rolling out fibre networks in the UK, Singapore, Malaysia, the UAE and Brunei," Mitchell added.

Topics: Government, Broadband, Government AU, NBN

Luke Hopewell

About Luke Hopewell

A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

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Talkback

28 comments
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  • As a possible tenderer for NBN work, Huawei's credibility must be questioned.

    Also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huawei

    Typical Labor Party Propaganda Machine. "NBN + Labor Party...a waste of my money"
    sachmodog
    • Your right and it will get more expensive after speaking to an ISP employee I was told the cost to connect after the trial is prohibitive and this person believed piping to the home will be compulsory and the existing copper wire will be wound back.
      GBE-71384
      • Did this person also express a view as to the efficacy of tinfoil hats or the likelihood of black helicopters landing any second?

        Seriously, GBE, that was a pretty lame quote!
        Gwyntaglaw
      • "I was told the cost to connect after the trial is prohibitive"

        Nice of the Liberals to punish the folks in their states to "Opt In" on the free install, rather than "Opt Out" then, wasn't it?
        Tinman_au
    • Isn't Huawei the company doing Telstra's LTE?
      Beta-9f71a
    • Any "tech" company can be a "possible tenderer for NBN work", so I guess with your line of reasoning if any of them support they can all be suspect? Nice try Tony...er...I mean sachmodog!
      Tinman_au
      • Any serious tenderer or potential tenderer - yep

        ...err...Steph err I mean...tinman_au!
        sachmodog
  • In 10 years time the naysayers will fade into history alongside those who rubbished telephones, home video, CD's and mobile phones. Your children will be gobsmacked that there was ever any question about 100Mbps to the home and in 20 years you won't be able to use any entertainment device without it. No one will remember about the public over-paying for a utilities inception or that the government screwed up roof bats programs etc. Julia Gillard will be remembered forever as the Prime Minister who gave us the NBN while John Howard will always be remembered for "Work Choices" and "Children Overboard". It's just the way we are a built as humans.
    bigpallooka
    • That's an oversimplification of the issue. Most people wouldn't dream of arguing the need for 100Mbs in the future. I'm not against an NBN, but I am against NBNco. Replacing a wholesale and retail monopoly with a wholesale monopoly that has absolute market protection and forces it's competitors not to advertise competing products is not going to improve prices overall.
      mwil19-a34f7
      • I half agree with you mwil. I agree on the need for 100Mbps+ speeds if we want to compete globally in the future.

        I'm not against the NBN though. What I am against is a privatised NBN. We don't need a "Telstra V2.0" episode. Keep it public and make it answer to the Productivity Commission and the ACCC. Australia has conditions that mean "Free Market" just doesn't work in the telecoms environment without extensive regulation (which basically null-voids the market being free).
        Tinman_au
      • But the problem is not as you state when we are dealing with a NATURAL monopoly. That is, the single element of the network, the "last mile", where overbuilding infrastructure is the least productive allocation of capital. That's all the NBN will be, for most people - that "last mile" of infrastructure, just like the electricity wires, the water and sewer pipes, and the local roads leading to your driveway.

        Every other element of the network is subject to real competition - the backhaul from the POI, all overseas links, on top of "value added" services like video, data hosting, cloud services and customer service to boot. All of that.

        You avoid the overbuilding problem that bedevilled any hopes of a well-planned, successful HFC rollout in the 1990s. I mean, if a power company wants to give you a better deal on your energy, is the best way for them to do that to run a second set of power lines to your home? A second set of gas lines? Water?

        And it isn't as though there won't be competition from wireless services - there clearly will be! David Thodey made it abundantly clear that he didn't see the restriction on advertising as being any more than a very narrowly-defined provision - and not one that would adversely affect their business in the least. Any outrage on Telstra's behalf would seem, then, a little overcooked.

        The other main difference between the current Customer Access Network wholesale monopoly (Telstra's) and the future one (NBN Co) is that it will be completely open and fair and with a level playing field. Any reference to "replacing one monopoly with another", without that very important bit of understanding, is truly what is meant by oversimplification.
        Gwyntaglaw
        • "if a power company wants to give you a better deal on your energy, is the best way for them to do that to run a second set of power lines to your home? A second set of gas lines? Water?"

          In your scenario you presume 2 providers - both of whom would be in competition with each other. In that scenario, the consumer doesn't pay anything until there is agreement to buy services from one or the other provider. You do not have to worry your mind about the possibility of capex duplication.

          On yes ..clearly there will be competition from wireless - perhaps beyond the imagination of both you and Stephen Conroy.

          The potential for open and fair not to be the case is greater than the potential for "open and fair" to be the case...the tears are rolling down my face.
          sachmodog
          • "In your scenario you presume 2 providers - both of whom would be in competition with each other. In that scenario, the consumer doesn't pay anything until there is agreement to buy services from one or the other provider. You do not have to worry your mind about the possibility of capex duplication".

            Err, what about if 10 companies want to compete. According to you they should all be allowed to, so not 2 x duplication, 10x.

            "clearly there will be competition from wireless - perhaps beyond the imagination of both you and Stephen Conroy".

            So according to you, the NBN is not a monopoly, as there is ample competition from wireless?

            I await your cake and eat it response, sheep.
            Beta-9f71a
        • The issue of whether NBNco is operating in a natural monopoly gets rolled out often but most people over look some glaring concerns. The main one being that NBNco will be privatised. Once this occurs, we will be paying higher prices. All the retail competition benefits will be undone by a wholesale company lifting their prices to what the market will bear, not what is fair.

          For some reason pro NBNco supporters think that the ACCC will protect them from this. It won't. You only have to look at the cost of water, gas and electricty over the past 10 years to see this. All a utility has to do is justify their costs and the ACCC backs off.

          I think tinman_au is right. NBNco would make more sense as a public entity. Once it is privatised, everyone's wallets will be getting gouged.
          mwil19-a34f7
          • of course it would, but it's impossible to get the opposition and to a lesser extent minor parties/independents behind this project now, which will pay for itself and can be sold at a hefty profit, let alone have them support a 'socialist' network, sigh.
            Beta-9f71a
          • Agreed. But a project of this magnitude is not something a minority government should try and ram through. Better that a majority government builds it, than rush something through now that will have the contain the structural deficiencies of the system it's replacing.
            mwil19-a34f7
          • but it seems no matter which way we go there will always be structural deficiencies. nbn minimises them better than any other alternative, imho
            Beta-9f71a
          • The issue with power and water is they don't answer to the PC/ACCC, they answer to local/state governments (who don't seem to be accountable to anyone any more, regardless of their political stripes). If they reported/answered directly to the PC/ACCC, I doubt they'd be the problem they are currently, the PC would keep them productive and the ACCC fair...
            Tinman_au
          • They answer to the AER. Which is part of the ACCC.
            mwil19-a34f7
    • Well socialists punks! Never mind 10 years... Another forty something billions added to our nation's debts... 2 to 3 more years of the idiots governing us and you will probably be jobless ... and will see most of us struggling to survive with all the new taxes ... Are u still laughing?!
      Giltam