April 14, 2009
Horse 979 - NBN, (or why it's a good idea)
In a matter of pure irony, the very protagonists against government ownership for public infrastructure provided quite compelling evidence as to why the private sector either isn't capable, should not be trusted or can't be bothered.
Firstly let's look back at what Telstra had to say in their BACK campaign:
Telstra wants to invest billions of dollars in delivering high-speed broadband across Australia. But backward-looking regulations, which prevent Telstra making a competitive return, are stopping us from building this new infrastructure'
If we take this is as absolute fact rather than opinion, then it should be verifiable. We should be able to see repeatable cases:
a released extract from a January 20 report of the Government's "panel of experts" that found that none of the tenders had submitted a business case that would support Conroy's plan
We can therefore assume since actually building a National Broadband network for whatever reason, either can not or will not be built by private enterprise.
Enter the Government, which has promised an affordable, high-speed broadband at a speed of 100 megabits a second to 90per cent of Australian households via a $43 billion fibre-to-the-household network.
Or as PM Kevin Rudd said to the House of Representatives:
"It will be the roadway of the 21st Century"
Quite a bold plan which even came with a backhanded endorsement from the Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull:
But Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull says we should spend the money wisely.
"If the money was being used to build roads or bridges or ports or water schemes, well then you would see a real benefit from it," he said.
Well, if the National Broadband Network is the "roadway of the 21st Century" then isn't that precisely what the money is being spent on?
Mr Turnbull himself out of the Australian has this to say:
Consider the Cross City Tunnel in Sydney. It cost nearly $1 billion to build; today, after a bankruptcy and its shareholders losing their investment, it is worth a fraction of that. Why? Because the owners' traffic assumptions proved to be wildly optimistic. As they were for the Lane Cove Tunnel and Melbourne's Eastlink. Just as well these were private-sector projects and the capital loss was not borne by the taxpayer.
Ahah Mr Turnbull, you seem to be forgetting that providing public infrastructure is always a losing game. Your concern that it will be "placing a debt on future generations" is equally stupid considering that it will be future generations who will most benefit from it.
Long after the people who spent £4,200,000 ($86,062,967 in 2009 terms), came the people who benefitted from the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We don't for hear Mr Turnbull complaining of the original builders being "wildly optimistic" about that now do we? Besides, who better to pay for the infrastructure than those actually using it? Isn't that surely the ultimate in "user-pays"?
For you see Mr Turnbull, only governments are placed to build infrastructure or to provide services which never make a profit (and in some cases should never be allowed to do so), like the Defence Dept, schools, railways, telecommunications as provided by section 51 of the constitution maybe?
Yet perhaps the best endorsement for a national broadband network onwed by government I've read is this one:
The proposal envisages the role for government to be defining the national interest, helping fund the investment and setting the regulatory rules. This is as it should be.
Not everyone will agree with these views. Given 20 years of allegedly poor decision-making by successive governments about telecommunication policy, some people remain philosophically opposed to any government involvement in commercial activities. Yet only government has the resources to undertake the rebalancing of a strategic industry to create a more open market and probably only a Labor government would have the ideological conviction to go down this path.
I find it curious to read who wrote this article. None other than Ziggy Switkowski, the former CEO of Telstra. How Curious.
My closing remark is that you can't actually call the National Broadband Network the NBN because of a certain TV station in Newcastle. Maybe they should choose a new name, something fitting with the whole Telecommunications thing. How about just shorten Telecommunications to Telecom Australia?
Posted by Rollo at 15:25