The Treasury has used frank language to warn the Government of a likely rise in NBN costs and advised it to hurry up and finish its response to the $25 million implementation study.
The Red Book is a document prepared by bureaucrats from the Treasury for a re-elected Government. It evaluates the party’s policies against financial reality. While the document is traditionally confidential, Treasury released the document after a series of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests.
“An early priority should be to finalise the Government’s response to the National Broadband Network (NBN) Implementation Study for the roll-out of the NBN,” the Treasury said. “NBN Co is seeking urgent decisions on outstanding issues.
“These measures will transform the structure and competitive dynamics of the telecommunications sector.”
While the Treasury said the NBN was on track, it gave a deadline of “coming months” before the Government had to release its decisions on key proposals that included “uniform pricing, location of points of interconnect and network design”.
The document then said the response would have risks for the budget and competition and that careful consideration was needed.
“The Government will need to seek passage through the Parliament of related regulatory reforms,” it added.
According to a report in The Australian, the Department of Finance has also warned its incoming Finance Minister, Senator Penny Wong, the Government’s planned $26 billion investment for the NBN may need to be revised.
The department’s Red Book said this was partially due to the Government’s agreement with “the rural independents on uniform wholesale pricing and priority rollout in regional areas,” the story claimed.
Shadow Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, claimed the Red Book’s statements were further proof the Government needed to release its business plan for the NBN.
“It is no wonder the Treasury mandarins are getting anxious about how many billions of taxpayers’ money will be lost in the NBN venture,” he said in a statement. “If the Treasury thinks there are significant risks to the public balance sheet from this venture, it also reinforces the calls for a thorough cost-benefit analysis to be prepared.
“The Treasury’s warning has not been made lightly.”
The Blue Book, which was partially prepared in case of a Coalition victory, was not released to the public despite several FoI requests.