NBN Co plan may not be released before the election

Communications Minister Anthony Albanese has signalled that the long-awaited NBN business plan will not be released before the election.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

In a late-night showdown with Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Communications Minister Anthony Albanese has said that NBN Co is still preparing its new corporate plan, and indicated that it would not be released prior to the election.

Image: Screenshot by Josh Taylor/ZDNet

The corporate plan — which updates the government on the state of the project and the forecasts for revenue, spending, and rollout targets for the National Broadband Network (NBN) — was originally supposed to be given to the government for consideration in May. ZDNet asked NBN Co in July whether the document had been completed, but NBN Co did not respond.

On Lateline last night, Albanese said that NBN Co has yet to complete the new corporate plan to be submitted to Cabinet for consideration. He indicated that this would likely mean that it will not be released to the public before the election on September 7.

"If we receive it, it has got to go through the Cabinet, and we're in caretaker mode," he said. "We have not received the final business plan."

Turnbull said that Albanese is keeping the document in draft format to hide potential cost blowouts and delays in the delivery of the fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) network.

"You've kept the draft stamp in it so they don't have to produce it before the election," he said.

"You've got a time bomb ticking away in that. You've got a confession from the company that they're failing, and you do not want to let the public know."

Albanese said the entire corporate plan process has always been transparent and the processes have been disclosed to the public. However, NBN Co has previously blocked access to documents relating to the corporate plan.

In the draft 2012 corporate plan submitted to Cabinet by NBN Co last year, the company had considered altering the policy for the delivery of the NBN to apartment blocks and other multi-dwelling units to a fibre-to-the-basement policy. This was rejected by the Cabinet, and removed from the public document released in August.

ZDNet sought access to this document under Freedom of Information, but NBN Co refused to release the document on the grounds that it would reveal Cabinet deliberations. An appeal of this decision is currently being reviewed by the Information Commissioner.

The 27-minute debate between the two politicians may be the last before the election next month. The Coalition is still keen on holding a debate at the National Press Club in Canberra, and Turnbull had originally proposed tomorrow as the day for the debate to be held. Albanese has so far not committed to a specific date for the debate, but Turnbull's office confirmed to ZDNet that it has offered any day over the next fortnight for the debate between the two politicians to be held at the National Press Club.

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