Aussie NBN: It's back to politics

Robert Clark
15 Sep 2010

The Australian government may have been re-elected on a platform to fund a national fiber network – but somehow the NBN doesn’t look any more certain.


The Labor Party was returned to office with a one-seat majority only after cutting a deal with independent MPs to accelerate the NBN rollout in rural areas.


The opposition, which had campaigned for a lower-cost wireless alternative, has taken off the gloves.


Opposition leader Tony Abbott has appointed the high-profile Malcolm Turnbull as communications spokesman with a brief to “demolish” the NBN. “This is going to be the absolute focus of the political battle over the next 18 months,” Abbott said in Canberra on Tuesday.


Turnbull, a former opposition leader himself, is a formidable advocate who rose to international prominence 23 years ago defending former British spy Peter Wright, who had published his memoirs in Australia. 


Unlike most politicians, Turnbull actually knows something about the business. He was chairman and biggest shareholder in Australia’s biggest private ISP, Ozemail, which sold out to WorldCom ten years ago for A$130 million ($119.6m).


Turnbull has attacked the NBN plan, in which the government plans to spend up to A$43 billion, as a waste of money. “There are much cheaper and cost effective ways of doing it than this vast enterprise,” he said in a radio interview.


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