Two of the three key independent MPs, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, have backed Julia Gillard and the ALP for Government after weeks of tense negotiations. The move means the National Broadband Network (NBN) will continue as planned.
Windsor declared the NBN was a key influence in his decision. "Do it once. Do it right. Do it with fibre," he said, in making his announcement.
The decision comes hours after fellow independent, Bob Katter, declared his support for the Coalition, and days after Tasmanian MP, Andrew Wilkie, backed the ALP for Government and will give Gillard a two-seat margin (76-74) in the lower house.
Gillard’s gain is good news for NBN Co, the company tasked with building the ALP’s broadband strategy for Australia. Under a Coalition Government, it was going to be harvested for staff and put towards a cheaper alternative broadband plan with more dependence on wireless networks.
Labor’s $43 billion scheme to put fibre optic cabling into every Australian household will now continue despite an open letter from several breakaway telco CEOs, which argued for more private enterprise and less public spending.
Communications was high on the list of priorities for all the Independent MPs, who also got briefings from NBN Co CEO, Mike Quigley. Although he’d earlier had doubts about the $43b costings, he came out of departmental briefings satisfied with the numbers.
It remains somewhat of an irony that what didn't appear a major electoral issue - the NBN - should eventually stand as a deciding factor, and one that must sit uncomfortably with the Coalition which gambled and lost with its cut-price broadband scheme.