The 2010 Federal Election was notable for the impact the National Broadband Network (NBN) had on voters. There is little doubt that business was buoyed by the government's NBN push which certainly swung some votes Labor's way.
Come 2013 not that much has changed. The NBN still remains a talking point and a political football, and once again will be key to the recently announced Federal Election set for September 14.
The Opposition isn't making the same mistake as last time when it looked like it had no real alternative to the NBN and has already begun announcing a few details about its broadband network.
Anittel managing director and executive chairman, Peter Kazacos, said he didn’t think the NBN would be dramatically impacted by a possible change in government, but companies may use the election as an excuse not to invest in the NBN until they know the outcome.
“The Opposition has indicated the NBN to the node will still be there and my belief is that businesses would pay for their links and potentially get them faster. They [the Opposition] would prioritise the people that wanted it, would get it first, as opposed to the current policy that will just run it through all the residential areas first,” Kazacos said.
“Being a commercial provider, Anittel’s view is, in terms of accelerating some of the things we want, it may be more positive, but unless we know the full policy, we don’t know whether the access of my business to the new strategy will be any different,” he said.
“With the existing Government we know businesses are going to get NBN access, which is a positive, but the timing of how long before businesses get access has been the issue.
“We still need an NBN, but it’s prioritising business access in regional Australia, which is where I would see both sides need to change.”
Kazacos said companies invested in consumer telco services would be concerned about how much they’ve invested in NBN programs.
In his address to the National Press Club, Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, briefly touched on its broadband plans, promising to deliver higher speeds sooner and cheaper than Labor’s NBN scheme.
“We’re committed to super high speed broadband that’s affordable for everyone and built sooner rather than later,” Abbott said.
“But with so many competing priorities, the last thing Australians need is another $50 billion plus in borrowed money to deliver higher speeds – but only in a decade’s time and at about triple the current monthly price.
“We won’t throw good money after bad, but we won’t dismantle what’s been built.”
Data#3 managing director, John Grant, said the Opposition still needed to answer some obvious questions in relation to their alternative NBN strategy.
“They should be able to detail the specifics of what they would do and how they would transition, and that’s a complication,” Grant said. “We do need digital infrastructure that’s ubiquitous, high speed and able to allow applications and business processes to be built on that to be able to generate productivity for our economy. There’s no other way of doing it.”
Grant said the current government needed to work on building business confidence with clear statements, direction and investment opportunities.
“Public sector industry revenues are being restrained because of the fiscal position of the Government, which is hurting the industry and also hurting the Government in terms of their services objectives,” Grant said. “The lack of confidence to invest still remains and this period to the election can only impact investment decisions negatively.
“I can’t see how it can positively impact investment decisions and therefore it will be tough time until the election.”
ASI director, Maree Lowe, said she didn’t expect to see any major budget changes from here to the election.
“Three months before an election, things get very quiet, not only in government but right across the economy because everyone starts to wonder what the election will bring, what changes will occur, but if you also stop and think - the election being in September, is traditionally a quiet period anyway,” Lowe said.
Lowe said she would like to see money being spent on the recommendations from the Gonski report.
“We need to invest in education, youth and being a smart country. We know we have to rely on having a smarter population,” she said.