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(Turnbull caricature by DonkeyHotey via flickr.com and technology scraps via pxhere.com)

Changing its design for his own political advantage, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has turned the NBN into a massive national disappointment, says Dr Peter Gerrand.

PRIME MINISTER MALCOLM TURNBULL’S latest debating trick on the NBN is to blame Labor for not implementing “the NZ solution”.

Turnbull said:

"They [the New Zealand Government] basically ensured the incumbent telco, the Telstra equivalent, split its network operations away from its retail operations. And then that network company in effect became the NBN." 

Prime Minister Turnbull blames Labor for NBN "train wreck".

However, it was Turnbull’s party, the Liberal Party, who ensured that this far better solution would never happen.

The Howard Government had this opportunity up until 2005, while it still owned 51 per cent of Telstra. All of the telecoms industry – except for Telstra and its unions – were calling for the structural separation of Telstra prior to its full privatisation.

If all of Telstra’s fixed national network infrastructure had been assigned to a new wholesale company, earning billions of dollars from supporting Telstra’s existing retail products, it would not have needed government investment to start rolling out a world-class NBN.

Instead, the Howard Government – of which Turnbull had been a member since 2004 – opted to close down a Parliamentary inquiry into structural separation. Their overriding objective was to maximise the dollars they could earn in selling off the national carrier — and they succeeded. 

The Nationals rolled over and ignored their constituents’ needs — with the honourable exception of the Member for Riverina, Kay Hull, who crossed the floor to vote against the 2005 legislation which sold off Telstra. 

In 2007, the fully privatised Telstra declined to roll out an NBN, except on quasi-monopolistic terms. The incoming Rudd Government then had little choice but to set up a new company, NBN Co, to design and build the new wholesale network.

Turnbull’s claim that the NBN he inherited was a “train wreck” is as mean-spirited as it is false. 

The leaders of the Australian telecommunications industry – on both the supply side and the demand side – in 2013 awarded NBN Co’s founding CEO Mike Quigley their highest award, the Charles Todd Medal, for his outstanding service in building the initial NBN from scratch. 

We in the industry know that the NBN’s original design would have given Australia a huge international competitive advantage. Changing its design for his own political advantage, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has turned the NBN into a massive national disappointment.

Dr Peter Gerrand is Honorary Professorial Fellow at the Melbourne School of Engineering, University of Melbourne, Adjunct Associate Professor (Research) in the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University and a freelance writer. You can follow Dr Gerrand on Twitter @pgerrand.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

 

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