Shadow Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has introduced legislation into Parliament to force a cost-benefit analysis out of the National Broadband Network (NBN).
Meanwhile, Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, today spruiked a new report by the Australian Industry Group (AIG) which stated an NBN-style project would drive “unprecedented opportunities” for Australian businesses. It will also provide benefits in applications delivery in areas such as e-health, age care, land management and education.
“This is the latest in a range of reports which finds that ubiquitous, open-access broadband connectivity will deliver a step-change in the way business is carried out across the country,” Senator Conroy said in a statement.
The NBN Financial Transparency Bill will require the Federal Government to publish a 10-year business case for the $43 billion network including key financial and operational indicators by November 19. It would also allow the Productivity Commission to conduct a detailed cost-benefit analysis on the NBN to be presented to Parliament by May 31 next year.
“This vast project the Government has stated will continue to be constructed for most of this decade,” Turnbull said. “So it is entirely reasonable for the Parliament to be provided with a 10-year business case rather than a business case over any short period.”
Turnbull flagged the private member’s bill last week when he revealed he had the Coalition’s backing.
He also said on Network Ten’s Sunday show on the weekend that the NBN proposition would be “incredibly persuasive” if the project was to be given a seal of approval by the Productivity Commission.
As stipulated by the Bill, NBNCo would have to disclose how many premises the fibre network would reach each year as well as how many consumers and businesses it expects to take up services on the network.
The proposed cost-benefit analysis would take into account different technologies to which high-speed broadband can be deployed to all Australians “with an estimate of the likely timeframe and cost of each option”.
A spokesperson for Senator Conroy said Turnbull's intentions for introducing the bill are misleading.
"Malcolm Turnbull and his colleagues are only interested in delaying the National Broadband Network, not delivering real reforms for Australians," the spokesperson said.
Independent MP, Tony Windsor, has already come out to show his support against a cost-benefit analysis.
Turnbull said the bill would complement his intended motion of creating a joint select committee from both the Upper and Lower Houses to oversee the NBN rollout. The committee would have four Government, four Opposition and two crossbench members and senators.
The Labor Government has defended its decision to not order a cost-benefit analysis on the NBN with Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, claiming the project should be "reverse engineered" in order to gauge its benefits to Australia”.