Speaking at his first industry event in his new capacity as Federal Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull kicked off with an outline of how the Coalition Government – and his portfolio – will differ from Labor.
The rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) is the cornerstone project for his department, and Turnbull pulled no punches in his criticisms over Labor’s handling of the NBN thus far.
“A very important point of distinction is that we recognise, as indeed any sensible person would, that all of the opportunities related to big data, the digital economy, and eCommerce, is not solely tied to the national broadband network,” Turnbull said at Paypal’s Driving Business Online 2013 event in Sydney today.
The Minister said the previous Government over-committed itself without having done enough planning and homework to support the NBN’s rollout.
What’s more, Turnbull believes the Australian business community has suffered a degree of paralysis as a result of the former Government’s rhetoric – with many businesses waiting for the NBN to be completed before investing in new online infrastructure.
“So for example, they would say, ‘eCommerce – fantastic! This will be enabled by the NBN’. ‘Small Australian butchers shops in Hobart exporting meat across Australia – this too will be enabled by the NBN’. So it was as though none of the benefits of the Internet would be available to you except through the Government’s own NBN. And that was always so much nonsense. Obviously, more discerning people recognise that, but in way it crippled the way the Australian Government approached this issue,” Turnbull said.
The Communications Minister was also emphatic that the new Government is committed to completing the NBN, and will do so more affordably, and sooner.
The first step under the new plan is to complete a strategic review of exactly where the project is at right now. “Regrettably as you know [the NBN] is not in a very good place – it has made very little progress over the last four years,” he said.
“Less than 2% of the build has been completed. We’ve got to ascertain where it is at now, how much in dollars it will cost over time to complete it under the old specifications, and then what can we do now to speed the process up and make it more cost effective,” Turnbull said, adding it’s not rocket science, and conducting a strategic review is the logical first step.