Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull last night said that National Broadband Network (NBN) enthusiasts need to demonstrate what applications will actually need the fibre network's massively enhanced speeds, telling futurist Mark Pesce that he should "lay off the Kool-Aid" with respect to the technology.
Pesce is an Australian inventor and futurist best known for his work on the Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML) as well as his media appearances and commentary on technology matters. Last night the commentator said on the ABC's The Drum program that the nation would need faster broadband for as yet undiscovered applications in the future. He noted that mainstream technologies like BitTorrent hadn't been invented until faster broadband came along.
"You've really got to lay off the kool-aid," Turnbull retorted. The Liberal MP said that it's "nuts" that even a "notorious, self-proclaimed futurist" like Pesce isn't able to name the applications that the NBN would fuel in the future. "Speed in and of itself is an abstraction," said Turnbull. "It doesn't do anything for you, unless you have applications you can use."
The comments came as Turnbull and a number of other Liberal parliamentarians have intensified the party's attack on the NBN project over the past few days.
"If anything, our criticisms of the NBN are more intense now than they were eight months ago," Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said on Tamworth's Radio 2TM late last week. Abbott said that the recent collapse of NBN Co's construction tender process demonstrated that "there is no way on God's Earth that they are going to be able to build this thing for the amount they are talking about."
"This is school halls on steroids," he added. "This is going to be an absolute rip-off of the taxpayer. This is not going to work. We know that this mob can't be trusted with money. We know they are incompetent when it comes to delivery, and the collapse of the tender process is, I very much predict, a sign of things to come."
In addition, Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham, one of the chief Coalition Senators responsible for questioning the NBN in the Senate's communications committee, last week issued a media release slamming the Federal Government for refusing to comply with a number of requests for further information on the NBN by a Senate Estimates Committee. Birmingham had received a letter from the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy stating it couldn't meet agreed timelines to answer "hundreds of questions" about the NBN.
"Labor's latest attempt to shield its NBN from public scrutiny is an outrageous attack on Australian taxpayers' right to know how billions of dollars of their money is being spent," Birmingham said in a statement.
"Timelines for answering estimates questions were agreed to by all Senators, including Labor Senators. To describe the effort required to answer the questions as 'unreasonable' is an insult to the Parliament and taxpayers alike.
"Clearly the government's paranoia and secrecy are only increasing as the NBN descends further into chaos," he said. "The government is desperately trying to stop any level of scrutiny of its NBN. What else is it trying to hide? Is the NBN unravelling at the seams?"