Turnbull slams 'dangerous NBN delusion'

Turnbull slams 'dangerous NBN delusion'

Summary: Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull yesterday slammed the $43 billion National Broadband Network project, saying that if any business person behaved in the way Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had, he'd find himself in hot water with the nation's financial regulator.


Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull yesterday slammed the $43 billion National Broadband Network project, saying that if any business person behaved in the way Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had, he'd find himself in hot water with the nation's financial regulator.

Malcolm Turnbull (Credit: Malcolm Turnbull)

Turnbull called the NBN the "absolute peak, the ACME in economic recklessness and inconsistency" during a speech at the National Press Club yesterday.

A $43 billion vision without any business plan, without any way of knowing how or whether it can be paid for ... is a very dangerous delusion indeed

Malcolm Turnbull

The opposition leader said that despite earlier comments from the Rudd Government that public infrastructure investment required decision making based on rigorous cost-benefit analysis and transparency, the newest plan hadn't been based on those at all.

"He made all these claims about a $43 billion plan without any business plan at all, not a line," he said. "If any of the business people here today or watching this broadcast on television were to do that themselves, they would find themselves down at ASIC so fast, dealing with some very unpleasant issues about their conduct — this was recklessness of the highest order."

Turnbull also slammed Treasurer Wayne Swan for not knowing the day after the proposition was announced how many people could be expected to take up the service or what they would be charged.

Turnbull believed the $43 billion had been plucked out of the air and said that with realistic assumptions it couldn't possibly commercially viable.

"Now it's often said that a vision without resources is a hallucination. Well let me say a $43 billion vision without any business plan, without any way of knowing how or whether it can be paid for, is more than that, worse than that, it is a very dangerous delusion indeed," he said.

He also took Communications Minister Stephen Conroy personally to task in response to a question on when the Liberal Party might bring in some young blood for fresh ideas.

"Stephen Conroy appears positively youthful," Turnbull said. "This is a man that has completely bungled the National Broadband tender and presumably suggested to the Prime Minister that they announce a $43 billion broadband project without any financial analysis at all."

"Now, I don't think either of those two parliamentarians [Conroy and Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon], relatively youthful though they may be, deserve to be any longer ministers or even in parliament based on their capacity and performance," he said.

Malcolm Turnbull has got 1000 one-liners but no plan

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner

In response to Turnbull's comments, a spokesperson for Conroy said that Turnbull didn't even know where he stood. The spokesperson said Turnbull was always lamenting the lack of Labor government infrastructure spend, while heaping dirt on the National Broadband Network proposal, which was the kind of economic infrastructure spend Turnbull was calling for.

Conroy's spokesperson also claimed that Turnbull had walked on both sides of the street where in some speeches he highlighted the possibilities of communications infrastructure, while in others expressing the opinion that current broadband speeds were good enough for his needs.

In a doorstop yesterday, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner also heaped scorn on the opposition leader, saying "Malcolm Turnbull has got 1000 one-liners but no plan".

This week, however, the opposition won a small victory in the communications arena by convincing the Auditor-General to commence a preliminary review of the National Broadband Network process that was terminated when the new plan was announced in April.

"We welcome the preliminary review to be undertaken by the Auditor-General but note that his previous review already found the RFP process to accord with Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines," the spokesperson for Conroy said.

That preliminary review, conducted at the request of former Shadow Communications Minister Bruce Billson at the beginning of last year, didn't raise any significant issues with the process.

Topics: Broadband, Government AU, NBN

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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  • Turnbull deluded if he thinks he can be PM

    Need some sort of charisma and capability to inspire - somewhat missing here.

    Plus being anti-everything for the sake of getting elected is tiresome. How about for the betterment of Australia? And don't go on about lost jobs - the Liberal Party only mentions job losses as a way of garnishing sympathy for their very anti-jobs stance. They have never really cared about who loses jobs - as long as it isn't their friends who get them elected. If they really cared about people and their jobs, they would insist on some sort of social contract from businesses to create jobs when times are good, rather than peddle the delusion that prosperity for business AUTOMATICALLY means prosperity for all. Usually it means properity for top management, and maybe a few more people at the lowest possible expense - but only if really, really necessary.

    It's about time the Liberal Party showed they actually care about Australians and not just about getting elected.

    After all, all polititians are elected by all the people to serve their interests. 'Governments' and Oppositions should stop putting their Parties first and start cooperating as one government. Parties have no meaning within the Constitution, but so much decision making and public debate centres around Party differentiation, to the distraction from solving the real issues.

    The problem comes because Parties spend more on getting pollititians elected than some of them get paid in their term. The extreme example is that the US President gets paid during a term only a small fraction compared to the amount spent on their election campaign.
    With this monetary imbalance, is it surprising where their loyalties ultimately reside - not with their electors!
  • Affordable Broadband --- Not from the ALP

    Turnbull's National Press Club speech made a whole lot more sense than $40 billion deficit Krudd and $43 billion no-plan Conroy. Why should taxpayers have to pay to fix the Krudd ALP's flakey policy dreaming.
  • broadband of any kind --- not from the libs

    why should taxpayers have to pay? because the alp were voted in to run australia *for all of us*, as they see fit.

    not just to sell assets, like telstra, and then say look at my bank account. while infrastructure is decaying and some of the not so lucky people, from outside of the safe seats, suffer.

    like the last mob did.
  • Times up Kev. 315 billion is a bit too much.

    Rudd got my vote last time. Turnbull will have it next time.