The National Broadband Network (NBN) could get the Opposition's approval if a Productivity Commission study into the $43 billion project came back with a positive report, shadow communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull has said.
“… If the Productivity Commission were to report on the NBN as they should, and if they were to give it a big tick from a cost-benefit point of view, it would be incredibly persuasive,” Turnbull said speaking on Network Ten television on Sunday.
“I think it would obviously change a lot of people's perceptions. It would have a huge impact but nobody in their right mind gives a blank cheque to anyone, even someone as a well resourced as [chairman] Gary Banks and the Productivity Commission.”
The news follows mixed messages from Turnbull last week which suggested that the Opposition would not immediately seek to block Labor’s Telstra separation bill which would enable a speedy transition of the telco’s assets to the NBN Co.
“Telstra is committed now to structural separation, and I think it would be in the interests of competition generally, and indeed in the interests of shareholders if there was an effective separation, but it would have to be on terms that gave security, in terms of pricing, to that separated network company," he said.
As reported by Computerworld Australia, Turnbull claimed the Coalition had not significantly changed its policy position on separating Telstra, despite the endorsement of Labor’s bill.
“If you are asking the question: Is it Coalition policy to be vehemently opposed to structural separation, that’s not our policy,” he said. “We have never been vehemently opposed to structural separation. We have been opposed to holding a gun to Telstra’s head and forcing them to do it against their will.”
Turnbull’s comments on Sunday were quickly rebuffed by communications minister, Stephen Conroy, who claimed a Productivity Commission study into the NBN would be a “waste of money.”
“They've been seeking to delay the rollout for months and months and months,” Conroy said on ABC television. “They've refused to allow debate in the Senate. They said we had to release the ACCC report, we had to release the McKinsey's report, we have to provide them all this information.”
Despite this, Conroy said an official business case for the NBN would be shortly released follow its review by the board of the NBN Co.
“We'll consider [the business case] over the next week or two… but I would expect some fairly major information to be available about the cost, the pricing, the rates of return, all of that sort of information I believe will be very public very shortly,” Conroy said.