Labor proposes adopting two-stage NBN policy

Australia's opposition party has proposed formally adopting a two-stage rollout of the National Broadband Network with fibre to the premises returning should Labor be elected to federal government.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor on

In its draft national platform, Labor has said it will need to complete the National Broadband Network (NBN) in two stages, rather than immediately returning to its original fibre-to-the-premises rollout.

Prior to the last election, the NBN policy designed and implemented by Labor during its time in office between 2007 and 2013 was for 93 percent of Australian premises to receive fibre right to the premises, with the remainder serviced by fixed wireless or satellite technology.

Ahead of its national conference in July, Labor has released its draft national platform outlining the party's positions on a range of issues, and the draft platform has seen a drastic shift from the party's last platform when it comes to the NBN.

In the current platform voted on in 2011 (PDF), Labor stated its commitment to rolling out fibre to 93 percent of Australian premises, saying the network is "transformative infrastructure" that will pay for itself over time and unlock opportunities of the digital economy.

Since its 2013 election defeat, Labor has not committed to a formal policy regarding the NBN, stating it would need to see how far the so-called multi-technology mix policy implemented by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull had been implemented before announcing its policy for the expected 2016 election.

Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare has consistently said that fibre is the end game, but recognised that the rollout would need to be completed in two stages after the multi-technology mix goes ahead.

Almost two years on, however, NBN is still in pilot mode for its fibre-to-the-node rollout, and is not expected to begin connecting hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) customers until next year.

Nevertheless, under the proposed draft platform released this week (PDF), Labor states that while the NBN remains the "biggest and most important infrastructure project" in Australian history, it would now need to be a two-stage rollout to return to fibre to the premises.

"Labor understands that fibre is optimal. A National Broadband Network for the 21st century will be rolled out across Australia, but because of the Coalition's limited vision, it will now need to be built in two stages rather than one," the party stated.

Among other policies floated in the draft document, Labor also recommits to its policy to crack down on multinational corporations minimising their taxation in Australia by shifting profits offshore. The party has also recommitted to open and transparent government, and has said it is committed to "preserving and strengthening" the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).

The current government is seeking to shut down the OAIC, but has yet to pass legislation through the Senate.

Following Labor supporting the government's mandatory data-retention legislation, the party has again said it believes in taking a "constructive and bipartisan approach" to security.

"The escalation of cybersecurity threats to national security, businesses, utilities, and individuals is another challenge that must be met. Labor will ensure that our responses to cyber attacks remain up to date, and that our institutional and legal arrangements are flexible in dealing with fast-evolving threats, including those driven by rapid technological change," the party states.

The party, which backed away from its mandatory internet filtering policy prior to the last election, also recommitted to "ensuring that children are adequately protected from exposure to inappropriate material over the internet, at home, school, and other public access points".

The Australian Labor Party is accepting comment on its draft national platform until May 29, ahead of the national conference to be held in Melbourne from July 24 until July 26.

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