Coalition warns NBN on pre-election deals
Tony Abbott (right) reiterated that he had been comfortable with Malcolm Turnbull's speech. Photo: Kate Geraghty
The federal opposition has warned the builder of Labor's $37.4 billion national broadband network (NBN) to consider a possible change of government this year before signing any contracts.
The advice given to the government-owned NBN Co was made in the dissenting report of coalition MPs attached to a joint parliamentary committee's latest review of the network rollout, released on Thursday.
Communication Minister Stephen Conroy says it demonstrates the coalition's plans to demolish the project if it wins government at the September 14 federal election.
The MPs said NBN Co should be aware "of the need to alter contracts" if the government changed, and suggested any deals have the necessary flexibility written into the terms of agreement.
"If this is not possible, then the likely costs of changing and lengthening contract terms need to be weighed against perceived benefits," opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said on behalf of coalition MPs in the report.
Senator Conroy said only Labor had a plan to build the high speed NBN to homes and businesses.
"The coalition will leave Australia with the broadband equivalent of the Sydney Harbour Bridge with only one lane," he said in a statement.
NBN Co plans to rollout optic fibre cable capable of delivering broadband speeds of up to 100 megabits per second to 93 per cent of Australian homes, schools and businesses by June 2021.
The remainder will access broadband through complementary fixed wireless and satellite technologies.
The coalition's plan involves rolling out fibre to the street corner and using existing fixed copper lines to link to premises, which would be cheaper and faster to build, although download speeds would be slower.
Meanwhile, joint committee chair Rob Oakeshott said the latest six month NBN review was the most difficult of the four produced so far and blamed the upcoming election for polarising the views of MPs.
"In my view, this is an early warning sign that the topic of higher speed broadband technology is likely to feature strongly in political debate throughout 2013, an election year," he said in the report.
The committee did recommend the government support NBN Co in considering whether to allow private telcos to "piggyback" off its wireless towers and satellites to boost mobile phone services in regional and remote Australia.
Coalition MPs also want NBN Co to give the committee a monthly progress report on the rollout, no more than 10 days after the end of each month.