Turnbull must now prove himself on the NBN

Turnbull must now prove himself on the NBN

Summary: After three years of opposing and criticising the NBN project, it's now the problem of incoming Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

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TOPICS: NBN, Government AU
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The heir apparent to the federal communications portfolio, Malcolm Turnbull, will need to quickly turn the National Broadband Network (NBN) project around and get some runs on the board with his fibre-to-the-node alternative in order to maintain credibility after his three-year-long campaign against the NBN.

Following a decisive election victory on Saturday, Prime Minister-Elect Tony Abbott is expected to announce his new Cabinet later this week, and be sworn in early next week.

Turnbull has said that he expects to retain his communications portfolio and become the next communications minister to succeed Labor's Anthony Albanese.

Far from immediately setting about to destroy the NBN as Abbott had originally stated three years ago, Turnbull's plans (PDF) are much closer to the existing NBN project than anyone could have conceived just three years ago.

The Coalition went to the election promising an AU$29.5 billion NBN, which would shift away from being fibre to the premises for 71 out of every 93 premises that were due to get it under Labor, and will now instead get fibre to the node, with the Coalition aiming to use Telstra's existing copper line between the node and each premises to provide services.

But before all that happens, the Coalition has promised to conduct three reviews into the NBN. Firstly, a 60-day NBN Co strategic review, which will outline the progress and cost of the project so far, and estimated time to complete the current NBN design versus the Coalition's proposal. The result will include recommendations on how NBN Co should be restructured under the Coalition.

There will also be an independent audit looking at the process that led to NBN Co's establishment, and the decision why the last government decided to go down the path of a fibre-to-the-premises project without conducting a cost-benefit analysis.

And finally, Turnbull will get his cost-benefit analysis at long last, looking at exactly what technology and what regulatory environment best suits Australia when it comes to broadband.

While the Coalition has made large promises around what sort of NBN we can expect under an Abbott government, these three reviews could potentially radically change the project.

Turnbull has said that he expects the reviews will vindicate his position, and they well could, but as incoming governments are sometimes known to do, the reviews could encourage a radical change in policy against any sort of NBN on the grounds of a "budget emergency" or some other inexplicable reason that justifies a change in policy.

It is optimistic at best for NBN fans to expect the reviews to suggest that the existing network design should continue.

Either way, Turnbull has a lot on his plate. There will no doubt be a period where he publishes a whole bunch of previously confidential documents that will make the last government look bad. He'll probably cull the headcount in NBN Co, replace the board, and pick a new, more Coalition-friendly CEO. But after that, he doesn't have a lot of time to get momentum building on the project.

The Coalition has promised that by the end of 2016, all Australian premises will have access to download speeds of at least 25Mbps. The Australian public has all too clear a memory of all the criticism Turnbull unleashed on Labor for failing to meet its NBN targets, so we'll all be watching how the NBN is tracking over the next three years to see if the Coalition's plan was more than just talk.

Turnbull also said that transparency would be the new watchword for NBN Co. Hopefully this means that the company will provide much more data about how it is reaching its targets, and how much the project is costing, rather than just paying mere lip service to transparency once all the Labor shaming has been done.

Topics: NBN, Government AU

About

Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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Talkback

17 comments
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  • Time for a rethink

    Given that he's probably the only politician in the incoming government that understands our need for the NBN, his intellectual dishonesty for the last year or so in opposing it in the interests of political success have been disappointing.

    Now that the rabid need for the Liberals to gain power is now assuaged, let's hope that logic and the best tech advice will prevail and he convinces his luddite colleagues to drop their opposition.

    There's also another elephant in the room. Is there any more need for Abbot? I suggest Tony watch his back ;-)
    Tony_McS
    • no chance

      There is zero chance of Turnbull (or anyone else for that matter) challenging Abbott. Not in the next three years anyway.
      Christo the Daddyo
    • NBN Petition. Please show your support.

      I have started a petition to strongly urge the coalition government to reconsider their FTTN NBN proposal in favour of a superior FTTH NBN. Please show your support for this issue by signing the petition and leaving any comments/thoughts at the following link:

      http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/the-liberal-party-of-australia-reconsider-your-plan-for-a-fttn-nbn-in-favour-of-a-superior-ftth-nbn

      Please spread the word, and refer as many of your friends and family as possible. Additionally, feel free to raise further concerns to Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, and the coalition government by sending them an email or written letter to the addresses below.

      Tony Abbott:
      phone: (02) 6277 4022
      fax: (02) 6277 8562
      website/email: http://www.tonyabbott.com.au/ContactTony.aspx
      address: Parliament House
      RG109
      Canberra ACT 2600

      Malcolm Turnbull:
      phone: 02 6277 4144
      fax: 02 6277 8445
      website/email: http://www.malcolmturnbull.com.au/contact
      address: PO Box 6022, House of Representatives
      Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600

      Liberal Party Federal Secretariat:
      phone: 02 6273 2564
      fax: 02 6273 1534
      email: libadm@liberal.org.au
      address: PO Box 6004,
      Kingston ACT 2604


      Thank you for your support.
      Thepeopleof Australia
      • You dont have repeat this comment in every article twice. We heard you the first time. This is spam now.
        Hubert Cumberdale
      • Still trying for a free lunch ?

        If you feel that strongly about it why not pay for it rather than getting signatures ?
        Rossyduck
  • Great article Josh. Interesting times ahead considering the "I told you so" count is already up to one and that was before the election on Saturday!

    I have no doubts Turnbull will find many things to make the NBN plan look bad and vindicate his own gimped version. Predictable. They know they'll need the ammo when things start going pear shaped with their plan. They wont want to take responsibility instead such distractions will be needed.


    ____________________
    1208 days to go!
    Hubert Cumberdale
    • How are you feeling Hubert?

      If you are like me (feeling depressed) perhaps you could try antidepressants. I'm going back on them, Alcohol just didn't cut it during the Howard era..
      ravsta
      • eh? Pretty good actually. Why on earth would you need antidepressants? Seems a bit extreme when we have front row seats to the coalition clown copper circus coming to town.

        Agree with alcohol though but only for those days when Abbott says something really stupid... which means every second day :-)

        http://hostthenpost.com/uploads/580b4549ca48a1bcb7cda1554ad6bdb7.jpg
        Hubert Cumberdale
  • what's the big deal?

    All this article is saying is that Turnbull is going to do exactly what he said he would do. Isn't that all we can ask of a politician?
    Christo the Daddyo
  • I predict!

    That the Coalitions NBN plan in what ever way they go will NOT be finished by 2016! Coalition lovers, bookmark this post so I can say "I told you so!"
    martin_js
  • NBN Petition. Please show your support

    I have started a petition to strongly urge the coalition government to reconsider their FTTN NBN proposal in favour of a superior FTTH NBN. Please show your support for this issue by signing the petition and leaving any comments/thoughts at the following link:

    http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/the-liberal-party-of-australia-reconsider-your-plan-for-a-fttn-nbn-in-favour-of-a-superior-ftth-nbn

    Please spread the word, and refer as many of your friends and family as possible. Additionally, feel free to raise further concerns to Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, and the coalition government by sending them an email or written letter to the addresses below.

    Tony Abbott:
    phone: (02) 6277 4022
    fax: (02) 6277 8562
    website/email: http://www.tonyabbott.com.au/ContactTony.aspx
    address: Parliament House
    RG109
    Canberra ACT 2600

    Malcolm Turnbull:
    phone: 02 6277 4144
    fax: 02 6277 8445
    website/email: http://www.malcolmturnbull.com.au/contact
    address: PO Box 6022, House of Representatives
    Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600

    Liberal Party Federal Secretariat:
    phone: 02 6273 2564
    fax: 02 6273 1534
    email: libadm@liberal.org.au
    address: PO Box 6004,
    Kingston ACT 2604


    Thank you for your support!
    Thepeopleof Australia
  • Or you could ask...

    Why has this government decided to go down the path of a fibre-to-the-node project without conducting a cost-benefit analysis?
    Paul Krueger
    • Because thier first option (Pull it out) wasnt palletable

      now guys like Richard champion the liberal FTTN because it clearly shows a government who is fiscally responsible.

      The Liberals have proved through their own budget there isn't an economic crisis and their egos are far too large to admit that FTTH is a much better cost effective option. despite what Richard will say the Australian has told him to say
      Yettie79
  • No Credibility Left to Lose

    Turnbull invests his own cash in multiple overseas FTTP projects while telling us FTTN will suffice here for a saving of a mere half billion difference in government commitment.

    Abbott's initial reaction was to "Destroy" until it likely helped to cost him the leadership when factored into the independent's decisions on which side to support.
    Since then he's switched to "Demolish" & cripple a far superior future public investment in order to lessen it's impact on Telstra/Foxtel/News Ltd while preserving their HFC income & maintaining Murdoch's support.
    It's all about self interest & spin in order to preserve the status quo & continue gouging the public for maximum profit.
    Sultanabran-
  • Sweep it clean

    Hopefully now we can get a bit of transparency. We all fought long and hard to get an NBN only to have the incompetent clowns at NBN Co cheapen it. Lets hope MT gets rids of the clowns in NBN Co and the DBCDE and puts people who know something about FttH in. Maybe then we can get a decent NBN that our grandchildren will not be paying off long after the fibre has failed.
    Rossyduck
    • Sorry Rossy

      " We all fought long and hard to get an NBN only to have the incompetent clowns at NBN Co cheapen it."

      Disagree
      NBNCo and the plan and 4 port NTU are the way to go.
      The issue has been Testra's incompetence or sabotage, IMO if sabotage, as a national infrastructure project verging on treason to guarantee monopoly rivers of Gold from their and Murdochs Media products.

      Contractor issues, interestingly exposes issues with using contractors for major projects.
      http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2013/9/5/technology/nbns-glimmer-hope

      NBN would have achieved far more building their own construction arm with some supervised contractor involvement.
      Unfortunately they followed established principles which provide cost certainty and was a necessity for political reasons
      Abel Adamski