Turnbull claims NBN reboot as great Coalition achievement

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said the changes to the company rolling out the National Broadband Network under his tenure is one of the shining lights of the Coalition government.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Australian Prime Minister and former Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said in House of Representatives Question Time that the switch of the NBN from a fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) rollout to its fibre-to-the-node (FttN)-dominated multi-technology mix (MTM), as well as the changes made to the company upon the election of the Coalition government in 2013, will go down as one of the greatest corporate turnarounds in Australian history.

"The turnaround of the NBN is one of the great achievements of the Coalition government," Turnbull said on Tuesday.

"The company is doing as much in two weeks as Labor did in its whole term in government, so it's rolling out."

Trotting out the familiar Turnbull trope of the NBN under Labor being a failed project, the former NBN shareholder minister said the aim was to be cost effective in rolling out broadband.

"Unlike the Labor Party, we do not turn technology into ideology. They make the same mistake with telecommunications as they do with climate policy and renewables policy," Turnbull said.

"You do it in the most cost-effective way using the resources you have, where they are, you design a technique that suits the circumstances."

Last month, NBN announced it would be ditching the Optus hybrid fibre-coaxial network in favour of fibre to the distribution point (FttDP) for up to 700,000 premises.

The Optus-owned HFC was scheduled to be switched off under a deal signed between Optus and the former Labor government, which Turnbull labelled as a dark day when he was in opposition.

"A black day indeed for the ACCC and competition in Australia," he said. "It is Optus that has hit the jackpot. AU$800 million in cash.

"The truth of the matter is this: The NBN Co are not lunatics who shell out AU$800 million for nothing, as the ACCC suggest.

"On the contrary, the HFC is an extremely viable competitor with the NBN Co and because its original capital cost was written off long ago, Optus could upgrade it for a modest cost which would enable it to undercut the NBN on price and provide equivalent services for most customers."

A leaked document released last November showed the Optus HFC network was not fully fit for purpose.

Last month, NBN hailed its own performance as "exceptional" over the 2015-16 financial year, and paid over AU$3 million in short-term bonuses to its senior executives.

Over the same period, NBN suffered a series of damaging leaks on the state of its network, which culminated in federal police raids on the offices of former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy in May, and a similar raid on Parliament House in August.

According to Essential polling released last week, only 22 percent of those surveyed believed the NBN will meet future requirements, with 47 percent saying they do not believe the network is future-proof.

Similar numbers were reported on the question of which NBN plan was favoured, with 27 percent stating the government had the best plan, while 42 percent backed Labor's FttP-based plan.

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