Australia's Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has claimed that the federal government's investment in the construction of the National Broadband Network (NBN) has been "slashed" in the 2013-14 federal Budget.
As outlined in ZDNet's coverage of the Budget last night, NBN Co has shifted down the amount of funding that NBN Co will receive in the 2012-13 financial year from the original forecast of AU$5.8 billion in the Budget last year, and even further down from the AU$4.7 billion outlined in the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook, to AU$2.6 billion.
This also means that funding will be slightly lower in the 2013-14 financial year, down to AU$5.1 billion from AU$6.6 billion. However, it means that funding will step up in 2014-15, from AU$4.1 billion to AU$6.3 billion, and in 2015-16, from AU$3.6 billion to AU$5.3 billion.
Excluding the AU$4.7 billion in the 2016-17 year that was not included in the 2012-13 Budget, NBN Co will be AU$800 million shorter between 2011 and 2016.
Despite the fact that the government, if re-elected in September, has committed in the Budget to funding NBN Co for the full AU$30.4 billion that the government expects to invest in the project, Turnbull said that the shift is a "gutting of the NBN's funding" and a "clear admission that it is disastrously behind schedule".
Turnbull called on the government to outline which electoral seats "will now not get the NBN on the promised timetable".
"Julia Gillard must level with the Australian people, and provide an open and honest account of who will be affected by NBN Co's latest massive fail — a colossal shortfall in its construction rollout now recognised by the Budget cutbacks," Turnbull said in a statement.
The statement was labelled "hysterical" by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, who said that people will only miss out on the NBN if the Coalition was elected to government in September.
"The only way Australians will miss out on the NBN is if the Coalition wins the next election and disconnects 9 million households from getting fibre to the home for free," he said.
"The facts are NBN Co's equity is appropriated each year and then drawn down as required. In the current financial year, equity requirements were less than anticipated, reflecting the reforecast rollout schedule."