There is a long tradition in politics. When a new government takes power, it suddenly finds that what it inherited from its from its predecessors is even worse than what it said before being elected, and consequently it will not be able to deliver on what it promised to get elected.
With the NBN Strategic Review, we have as good an example in front of us as we are ever likely to see.
Welcome to the new reality of Australia’s National Broadband Network. After years of Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition slagging off Labor’s NBN as being too expensive and taking too long to implement, we have a revised plan – which will be more expensive and take longer than what we were led to believe.
But it will no longer just be FTTN. It will use a mix of technologies, and be rebuilt – 15 years out if necessary – to give everybody the fastest speeds possible. Malcolm Turnbull promised a miracle. Cheaper, sooner, and only a little bit slower. Now it’s just as expensive, will take just as long, but still be slower – at least until today’s children have children of their own.
But, as Ned Kelly said, such is life. The important thing is that we have a plan, and we have commitment. And that commitment is the work of Malcolm Turnbull – the Coalition’s NBN policy was at one stage to tear the whole thing down.
Politics aside (which is of course impossible), the Strategic Review shows that TurnbullNet and ConroyNet are not so different from each other. Labor’s vision was fibre to the premises for 93% of us, with the rest served by what will be an excellent satellite system and TDD 4G, as now being trialled by Optus. Ambitious and difficult to execute.
The Coalition’s vision will use a mix of technologies to give us all the highest speed possible when it is possible in such a way as to minimise the effect on the budget. It will lack Labor’s coherence, and may even end up costing more. But it will happen.
The NBN debate shows all that is wrong with debate over public policy in Australia. It’s like Sydney’s public transport system, or airport. It’s like asylum seekers, or the car industry. Partisanship and petty point-scoring push rational debate into the background.
But we will, at least, get a National Broadband Network.