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Tuesday, 18 October 2011 19:54

NBN decisions 'driven by engineering': Conroy

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Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has rejected as "spurious" accusations that the just-announced NBN Company 12-month construction plan was an exercise in political pork barrelling.


Former Optus government relations executive and Liberal MP Paul Fletcher claims an initial analysis of the 28 new construction sites for the National Broadband Network roll-out favoured Labor-held seats.

Mr Fletcher, from the safe seat of Bradfield on Sydney's North Shore, says more than 80 per cent of the 485,100 premises to be connected in the next year were in Labor, Green, independent or marginal Coalition seats. The NBN Co unveiled its 12 month construction plan earlier today.

Senator Conroy dismissed the analysis as "spurious and desparate," arguing that roll-out decisions are driven by engineering and other technical considerations, as well as the requirement to have trunk line transit rings and Points of Interconnect in place.

It was impossible for early fibre roll-out in Tasmania to be situated in an Opposition held seat, because the the Coalition did not hold any of the five Tasmanian seats in the lower house, Senator Conroy said, while in Western Australia "the Coalition seemingly received more sites in the rollout, commensurate with the fact they have a greater representation in the state."

"In NSW, Mr Fletcher conveniently leaves off construction work undertaken in Kiama and Jamberoo, a Coalition-held seat," Senator Conroy said.

"Of the six new sites he quotes in Queensland, three may be in Labor seats but three sites are also in Coalition seats."

Meanwhile, Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull says he is unsurprised that Telstra shareholders today "voted to take the billions of dollars Stephen Conroy has offered them to shut down the company's copper network," because they "are not obliged to consider the public interest."

"Given a unanimous recommendation from directors, the deal was always going to get approved," Mr Turnbull said in a statement.

The situation in Australia was "unique in the world," Mr Turnbull said, with no other Government spending so much money to create a publicly-owned monopoly.

"Everywhere else, in contrast, governments are seeking to encourage the private sector to upgrade broadband services and actively encouraging competition," he said.

"Australia's NBN was conceived by Kevin Rudd and Stephen Conroy on the back of a beer coaster (so we are told) on a government jet between Sydney and Brisbane," Mr Turnbull said. "Tens of billions of dollars have been committed despite the absence of any comparable scheme anywhere in the world, and without any pretence at a cost benefit analysis."

"Telstra shareholders have voted in their own self interest, as they should. But their decision was informed by detailed financial analysis and a considered recommendation from their board."

"Taxpayers have received no such information or consideration from this incompetent Labor Government."

 

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