When Australians think of technology it is a positive. They see possibilities and the future. In contrast, for Scott Morrison and his cabinet, technology is an instrument to exploit or invent political differentiation, and tactfully present voters with false choices.
When leaders consistently put near-term politics ahead of the longer-term public interest, it invariably extracts a price.
Taxpayers have paid more but received a technologically inferior NBN, and no matter how much spin the Liberals churn out, that is the stark reality.
This week, Telstra claimed its 5G home broadband service will offer average speeds of 378 megabits per second to homes and businesses. In contrast, the average maximum speed on Fibre to the Node is 67 megabits per second, and up to 200,000 premises on the copper NBN can’t even get 25 megabits.
Imagine spending $50 billion on a copper dominated network, that’s not delivering minimum speeds required under law, and already losing its competitiveness.
That is the anti-genius of Liberal-National Party. Deceive. Implement bad technology policy at higher cost. Then spend more money to correct their mistakes. They led us down this path on broadband, and now want to do it with energy.
In 2013 the Liberals produced “modelling” known as the NBN strategic review. This elaborate sham had a sole purpose: provide political cover for abandoning fibre.
This document was then used to claim a multi-technology mix of second-rate technologies was going to be $30 billion cheaper than a full-fibre NBN.
This untruth, repeated at nauseum, relied on two tricks.
The first was pretending the copper dominated network being rolled out costs $41 billion. False. It is costing $57 billion.
The second was to claim the original plan to deploy a fibre network to 93 per cent of Australia would cost $72 billion, rather than the near $50 billion forecast under Labor.
The latter claim, which the Liberals clung to desperately, was decimated in a front-page report in the Sydney Morning Herald in February 2021.
It revealed that in late 2013 the Liberals were explicitly told deploying Fibre to the Premises was dramatically cheaper than what they claimed in public.
That advice was redacted and kept secret for seven years, and it is clear why.
If the redacted costs for fibre, along with real-world interest rates, were fed back into the strategic review “modelling”, the original fibre rollout would have cost around $53 billion.
Notably, Minister Fletcher stopped repeating his $30 billion claim since the unredacted extracts appeared in print, because he always knew it to be false.
The NBN copper rollout has now become a business case liability and looks increasingly uncompetitive against 5G.
The NBN HFC network, which relies on Foxtel Pay TV infrastructure, is arguably the most expensive and unreliable deployment of its sort in the world.
Tens of thousands of Fibre to the Curb modems across the country are also frying during storms because lightning is being conducted over the copper that leads into the home.
The government is now saying Fibre to the Curb technology will not deliver gigabit speeds, despite promising it would only a year ago.
Every fixed-line technology deployed by the Coalition is beset by technical or business case problems, except for Fibre to the Premises – Labor’s original technology of choice.
History doesn’t always repeat itself, but quite often, it rhymes.
Whether it is broadband or energy, this Liberal-National government of Morrison and Joyce cannot be trusted on technology. For them, it is always about politics, and never about you.
Michelle Rowland is the Shadow Minister for Communications, and Member for Greenway
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