update Shadow Communications Minister Nick Minchin has attacked the
government over reports that the expert panel didn't give any
advice on the viability of its $43 billion fibre-to-the-home
Nick Minchin (Credit: Suzanne Tindal/ZDNet.com.au)
The Age reported this morning that expert
panel member Rod Tucker, Laureate Professor at the University of
Melbourne and research director at the ARC Special Research Centre
for Ultra-Broadband Information Networks, said that the government
had not asked for advice on the financial validity of the
"I just want to make one thing clear: the panel of experts was
never asked to and didn't make any judgement call on the issue of
investment for a fibre-to-the-home network," the Age reported Tucker
A spokesperson for Conroy today confirmed that the panel did not consider costing for the $43 billion National Broadband Network. Costing was instead carried out by government agencies, based on advice from technical advisors, according to the spokesperson.
The panel did, however, encourage the government to invest in the technology for a "long-term national broadband solution", the spokesperson said, adding that the government had also received advice on the technical suitability of fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) from other "high-level sources".
"The overwhelmingly strong view of this advice was that FTTP is the technically superior broadband solution," the spokesperson said.
original press release terminating the fibre-to-the-node
project and announcing the new $43 billion plan in early April, Prime Minister
Kevin Rudd said that the government's announcement was informed by
"Obviously right now we are dealing with a capital constrained
world. But we have acted on the advice of an expert panel,
containing within it the Secretary of the Treasury, expert advice
also from the ACCC about this thing being the right way to go,"
Rudd said at a press conference on the same day.
Minchin said that Tucker's words had confirmed that
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's $43 billion broadband plan
was based on shaky foundations. He has previously
voiced scepticism as to whether Treasury Secretary Ken Henry, who also sat on the panel,
had given the fibre plan his stamp.
"It has now been confirmed that Senator Conroy has no idea
whether this project will be commercially viable or not, yet he has
arrogantly dismissed the need for any cost benefit analysis,"
Minchin pushed again for the public release of the expert panel
report, which as yet has
remained unpublished apart from an extract since Conroy claims the document is commercial in
"Now that the panel members themselves are at direct odds with
the government about the advice they provided, there is an even
greater onus on Senator Conroy to release the report. What is he
trying to hide?" Minchin said.
Senator Minchin yesterday
submitted a freedom of information
request in an attempt to secure the release of the panel's advice,
as well as the regulatory reform paper submitted to the government
by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. The government
turned down one freedom of information request by Tech Wired.
Tucker's office did not respond to a request for comment.