NBN review Coalition's top priority: Turnbull

By a staff reporter

Shadow minister for communications and broadband Malcolm Turnbull says a review of the national broadband network will be an elected Coalition government's most important task in its first 100 days of office.

In a debate with Business Spectator's editor-in-chief Alan Kohler in Sydney, Mr Turnbull said the opposition would aim to complete strategic review of the network within 60 days.

"The most important thing we're going to do, from the jump, is undertake a very rigorous analysis of what this project is really going to cost in dollars and years to complete on the current specifications.

"And then an equally rigorous analysis of what are the genuine savings, not in an idealised way, but in an actual realisable way, the genuine savings that can be achieved in dollars and years by making certain modifications.

"The strategic review is the single most important piece of work in the first 100 days."

Mr Turnbull confirmed an elected Coalition government would honour existing contracts with NBN Co as well as pushing forward with its goal to accelerate the rollout.

"We think the NBN Co's business plan dramatically undercooks the cost of construction and the time taken to complete it among other things," Mr Turnbull said.

The shadow minister said there are new technologies to deliver broadband his party has not yet canvassed.

Five years ago, there was a "very big difference" in service level between ADSL2+ and fibre to the premises, he said.

But in recent years, "that difference has compressed".

"There is a point at which increases in speed cease to have any marginal utility."

The shadow minister said that to understand broadband, it was best to "talk to the men and the women that are actually building the networks now," rather than consultants.

"When you talk to those people, you see that the proposition that copper is at five minutes to midnight is simply not true," he said.

Mr Turnbull said because ubiquitous fast broadband would bring large productivity gains, "rapid deployment is an enormous plus".

"Our approach of getting everybody onto very fast broadband by the end of the next parliament is something that has... a huge economic pay-off."

Mr Kohler emphasised that government is not a business and asked whether non-financial benefits would be included in a planned cost-benefit analysis.

The shadow minister said he would, but questioned whether benefits to productivity were worth the extra $60 billion he estimated Labor's broadband plan would cost.

"I think the sixty billion is rubbish," Mr Kohler replied.

Mr Turnbull said he did not object to fibre to the premises technology in itself, but given the rapid rate of technological change thought it was best not to provision for future demands with today's technology.

Mr Kohler said that a Coalition government may face similar delays in negotiations with Telstra as the Labor government.

But the shadow minister said changes his party would make with Telstra would be "relatively modest".

He also downplayed concerns about delays from contractors.

"The advantage of fibre to the node is that there is so much less civil work," he said.

"The analyst community have generally come to the conclusion that the Coalition's NBN policy is somewhere between neutral and a net positive for Telstra," he said.

"Not a huge positive, but I'm very confident we can get something sorted out."

Mr Kohler asked whether a Coalition government would insist on the HFC business being fully separated from Telstra.

"Our assumption is that we will," Mr Turnbull said.

"Nothing changes with respect to the HFC except that we would not overbuild the HFC as a priority."

Mr Turnbull said he was "deeply troubled" that the NBN Co and the government had paid Telstra to decommission HFC networks that are capable of delivering very high-speed broadband.

The shadow minister also described his plan as "straightforward" for apartment blocks and office buildings.

"I'm canvassing proposing technologies that you know will work," he said.

"Fibre comes down the street you install a node in the basement...and away you go."

At the moment, "they don't know how to connect multi-dwelling units," he said.

"The approach we're taking is very much the global norm. I think that's sensible when you're dealing with public money."

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Sounds like a very easy interview: - No putting Turnbull on the spot about how "commercial" projects should have been handled by Parliament. -No putting Turnbull on the spot of the analysis that should have been undertaken by Parliament of the NBN, and what this should have entailed. - No putting Turnbull on the spot for stating the role of the Senate in insisting on business case review for this commercial project - when they have not been responsible in this regard. - No putting Turnbull on the spot for the "off balance sheet" nature of the project - would the Coalition continue this, or perhaps state deficit/surplus and debt information differently: one set of numbers excluding "commercial projects" and one set of numbers including commercial projects - so that it is not all hidden. - No putting Turnbull on the spot for Coalition guidelines on insisting on business case review on all government projects declared "commercial"; and policy to shield these projects from noncommercial political interference.
You do understand that Turnbull is in the Opposition!!
Hello Steven - it does not mean we should go lite on him. For instance he could state Coalition policy requiring Parlimentary business case review of projects determined "commercial", he could state Coalition policy of efforts to sheild "commercial" projects from noncommercial politcal interference, he could state Coalition policy to announce two sets of defict/surplus and debt figures of without "commercial projects" and with commercial projects.
He still doesn't get it. The Merchant Banker over rides the responsibility of governing a Nation for the best long term interest of the whole Nation. Deja Vu Or is it about safeguarding Ruperts pay TV Sports Monopoly which supports the rest of the News Ltd Media?. Can't have multicast media and 4 discrete services available for such a miniscule extra amount relatively speaking
On analysis just reinforces the viewpoints http://delimiter2.com.au/conduct-unbecoming-how-the-nbn-debate-has-damaged-the-turnbull-brand/ We have "The advantage of fibre to the node is that there is so much less civil work," he said. The shadow minister said he would, but questioned whether benefits to productivity were worth the extra $60 billion he estimated Labor's broadband plan would cost. So considering the decisions are made regardless, what is the point (Yes Minister) "The most important thing we're going to do, from the jump, is undertake a very rigorous analysis of what this project is really going to cost in dollars and years to complete on the current specifications. "And then an equally rigorous analysis of what are the genuine savings, not in an idealised way, but in an actual realisable way, the genuine savings that can be achieved in dollars and years by making certain modifications.
you can watch the interview here: http://www.businessspectator.com.au/knowledge-center/adapt-or-die/nbn-debate
Wow - at least you were able to watch it. I have cable and this was caching so often I gave up after trying the livestream site, and the spectator site, and "listening" for about 15 minutes to three words at a time.....are you sure we don't need fibre to premises Malcolm? Anyway, the bits I did hear were that green fields will get fibre to home, and some brown fields - hope I win that lottery. Alan, did you choose this method of distributing to those that didn't come in to eat to make a point?
If their review is objective the Coalition will quickly realise that Labor's NBN is far superior in terms of quality and cost effectiveness and will continue building it without delay.
This was a long MT monologue, occasionally interrupted by a few questions. One trait that is increasingly emerging is that MT doesn't like to be challenge and will talk over the top of people who don't agree with him. Otherwise, the same old distortions, rationalisation and half truth.
In response to the second last question from "white hair" in the audience MT revealed the true nature of his NBN philosophy. "White-hair" related that he sees many people especially youths using iphone, etc on the bus, in trains, at airport & hotels and asked why the NBN wasn't focusing on wireless broadband rather than landline broadband. He went on to say China have leap-frogged landlines in favor of mobile phones, people want the same account whether they are home or travelling and the problem with the NBN is all it is doing is delivering high speed to the home - OMG!!! Leaving "white-hair" issues aside, MT replied that NBN was not about wireless, there was competition in that space already and the government needn't been involved, he then went on to say "I'm quite sure the government shouldn't have been getting into fixed line business either". So there you have it, MT has stated the government should not be involved in the NBN, is it any wonder the Liberals policy has been badged "Fraudband"?