Turnbull rejects NBN petition

Coalition communications spokesperson Malcolm Turnbull has rejected an online petition with over 200,000 signatures calling for the Coalition to consider keeping the NBN design as is.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Liberal communications spokesperson and likely next Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has responded to a Change.org petition with over 200,000 signatures calling for the Coalition to retain the fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) design for the National Broadband Network (NBN), by stating that the electorate has made its choice to go with the Coalition's plan.

After the Coalition won the election on Saturday, a university student who has claimed to be a Liberal voter started an online petition calling for the Coalition to retain the FttP design of the NBN, rather than switching to a fibre-to-the-node (FttN) design for the vast majority of premises as the Coalition has long planned.

The petition has been the fastest-growing petition on Change.org in Australia, surpassing 200,000 signatures yesterday. Turnbull had initially responded to the petition on Twitter indicating that an election had been held on Saturday, and that the public had its chance to decide on the NBN policy at that election.

But last night, Turnbull went further, and in a blog post on his website stated that the NBN had been a prominent issue at the election, and that the Coalition's policy was well documented prior to the election.

"The promoters of this petition apparently believe that we should ignore the lengthy public debate on the NBN that preceded the election, and also ignore the election result. We should within days of the election walk away from one of our most well-debated, well-understood, and prominent policies. Democracy? I don't think so," he said.

Turnbull indicated that the Coalition is still open to fibre to the premises, but that the NBN has to be cost effective and completed quicker than the current project is being delivered.

"We will bring the public into our confidence. We will open the books of the NBN. There will be a strategic review conducted within the next 60 days, which will show how long it will take and how much it will cost to complete the NBN on the current specifications and what that means both to the taxpayer and to the consumers," he said.

"We will also set out what our options are to complete the project sooner and more cost effectively, and again what that means in terms of affordability and of course in service levels."

In a broadside to many NBN fans, Turnbull said that people in favour of FttP "at any cost" were "reckless".

"Many of the FttP supporters on Twitter and elsewhere say that they don't care what it costs or how long it takes — they want fibre to the home regardless. That point of view is reckless in the extreme. Every public infrastructure project has to be carefully and honestly analysed so that governments, and citizens, can weigh up the costs and benefits," he said.

"This study is vital for the public to be fully informed, and our redesign of the project will be informed by the result of those studies. The NBN debate is not over — but I am determined to ensure that from now on, it is at least fully informed."

Turnbull is widely expected to be the new minister for communications when Prime Minister-Elect Tony Abbott announces his new Cabinet next week. It is still unclear who will be the co-shareholder minister for the NBN, with many expecting Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos to take on the role of finance minister previously held by Penny Wong.

The new shadow ministry has also yet to be determined, with Labor still in the process of determining who will lead the party after Saturday's election defeat. Former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has indicated that he wants to return to the front bench, but has not given any indication that he would like to return to the communications portfolio.

The government's NBN advertisement website NBN.gov.au was pulled down this week as the incoming government reviews the NBN project. The Coalition had long been critical of the tens of millions of dollars the last government spent on advertising the NBN project.

NBN Co's own website remains up, but is still subject to caretaker conventions.

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