While on one hand, the Labour Federal Government praises information from The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to support Labour Governments initiatives, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy on the other hand has spat the dummy over claims by the OECD that NBN Co, risks using technology that could become obsolete and that the $43 Billion dollar project could be a financial risk to Australia.
Questions are also being raised as why the Productivity Commission will examine climate change – while the government refuses opposition and industry demands to engage it to inquire into the $43 billion National Broadband Network after Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday confirmed the climate change costing investigation.
The OECD in a recent report on Australia said that the NBN entailed “substantial financial uncertainties”, as the cost of building the NBN would amount to 3.25 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product.
The OECD said: “Part of the plan is to shut down the existing copper network and the country’s main cable network. While establishing a monopoly in this way would protect the viability of the Government’s investment project, it may not be optimal for cost efficiency and innovation.”
Shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull immediately seized on the findings, describing them as “unusually harsh criticism” of the Government’s lack of a cost-benefit analysis for the NBN project.
“It is unusual because the OECD rarely criticises domestic policies and this is no doubt in large measure due to the fact that the Treasury of the country being written up provides considerable assistance to the OECD in preparing their survey,” he said, claiming that the report “pointedly observes that no cost-benefit analysis was undertaken for the NBN.”
“If the Government takes the OECD survey to heart it would support our move to refer the NBN to the Productivity Commission and support our amendment to the NBN legislation to ensure it is not exempt from the anti-monopoly provisions of the Consumer and Competition Act (formerly Trade Practices Act),” Turnbull added.
Yesterday Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy was back slamming anyone who criticised his prized NBN Project.
He said “The NBN has the potential to yield substantial benefits, especially in terms of productivity, and that it will improve Internet services for the entire population and promote a fairer competition between private firms on retail services,” said Conroy.
According to the Fairfax Media, the independents are considering backing Coalition moves for tougher scrutiny of the government’s controversial $43 billion national broadband network after the OECD criticised the concept of a publicly owned monopoly on wholesale internet services. The move could stall the roll out for up to 18 months.
The SMH said that the opposition spokesman on broadband, Malcolm Turnbull, has proposed amendments that would knock out the government’s plan to exempt the crucial deal between NBN and Telstra from the normal safeguards of competition law.
Mr Turnbull says the deal, setting up NBN as a monopoly wholesale provider and ruling out competition from existing copper and cable networks, will push up household internet prices.
The independent senator Nick Xenophon said he agreed there was a need for ”safeguards to make sure that consumers don’t pay higher prices and retailers aren’t dealt with unfairly because we are bypassing normal competition principles”.