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Albanese Government adopts Coalition’s ultra-fast NBN rollout but irresponsibly shifts cost burden to taxpayers

The Albanese Government’s NBN announcement today confirms that Labor has abandoned its reckless National Broadband Network (NBN) plan in favour of the Coalition’s ultra-fast NBN rollout which delivers fibre to the premises (FTTP) on demand.

However, in announcing it will make a $2.4 billion equity investment in the NBN, the Albanese Government has irresponsibly hit taxpayers with an unnecessary multi-billion dollar burden.

As part of the Coalition’s plan to upgrade the NBN which included a $4.5 billion investment in 2020, NBN Co is rolling out ultra-fast broadband to ensure that 8 million or 75 per cent of premises across Australia can connect to broadband speeds of 500 Mbps to close to 1 Gbps by the end of 2023. A key part of this commitment was to upgrade two million fibre to the node (FTTN) premises to FTTP in order to access these very high speeds.

Importantly, this $4.5 billion investment was financed through the NBN accessing private sector debt at low interest over the long term, meaning no additional investment by the Commonwealth was required.

Further, under the former Coalition Government, the total amount of debt owed by NBN Co to the Commonwealth was reduced by more than $12 billion, with debt replaced by long term and lower interest debt in the private sector debt markets.

In stark contrast, the Albanese Government is hitting Australian taxpayers with a $2.4 billion cost to the Budget rather than requiring NBN Co to fund its further expansion with a combination of retained earnings and private sector debt. The Albanese Government’s equity commitment is completely unnecessary and shows it does not know how to manage taxpayers’ money.

There was nothing new or meaningful in Labor’s policy announcement, made in late 2021, that once two million premises in the FTTN network were upgraded to FTTP by the end of 2023, NBN Co would then move to upgrade a further 1.5 million premises from FTTN to FTTP.

Under the Coalition, the Australian taxpayers’ financial exposure to the NBN was being steadily reduced; under Labor it is once again increasing.

The Coalition’s NBN track record is clear. After we inherited a train wreck project in 2013 under Labor when the NBN was delivered to just 51,000 premises, we worked hard to deliver ready-to-connect NBN broadband to over 12 million or 99 per cent of premises across Australia.

Labor’s previous flawed plan was to overbuild the NBN and deliver FTTP to customers in every home and business (excluding low population towns and regions) regardless of whether they wanted it or not. The Coalition’s multi-technology mix plan, adopted in 2013, was not only financially responsible but ensured the NBN was delivered much more quickly than Labor’s plan which was, of course, vitally important during the pandemic.

20 October 2022

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