For many people, voting in Saturday’s election was like choosing between a lobotomy or castration. The lack of an easy choice in government has led the country to its first hung parliament since WWII, with 78.1 percent of the vote counted. But without a clear leading party, what does that mean for the NBN?
Prior to the actual election, the situation was relatively simple. If Labor won 76 seats, the NBN would continue to be built. If the Coalition won 76 seats, then the NBN would be cancelled and its assets sold while the Libs introduced a broadband plan of sweet FA. But now that the government is hung, the power shifts to the independent ministers Rob Oakeshott, Bob Katter and Tony Windsor (and possibly Andrew Wilkie, depending on how things transpire in his contentious seat of Denison in Tasmania), plus Greens MP Adam Bandt.
For either Labor or the Coalition to form a minority government to rule the country, they will have to get these independent ministers on side.
But what do the independents think about the NBN? Well, we know that Greens MP Adam Bandt is likely to side with the Labor government. But of the others, what’s interesting is that they represent regional communities for whom communications is a very important issue.
According to this ABCNews piece outlining the independents, despite the fact that the three confirmed MPs all came from the National Party, each of them believes that communications is a key issue. Each of their electorates are in line for the early roll-out of the NBN – when the latest NBN announcement was made in July, Oakeshott was quoted as saying “The sooner that we can get high-speed broadband internet the better it will be for our business and for making things easier.” Similarly, Tony Windsor has been critical of the Coalition’s broadband policy, stating “I have been very supportive of the National Broadband Network rollout as I see it as the railway of the 21st Century that will only make doing business in and from country Australia easier and more attractive.”
While the debate about which party will form a minority government will continue for a while yet, and the decision won’t be based entirely on broadband policy, it’s still heartening to know that the independent MPs who will hold the balance of power in the hung parliament are positive towards upgrading the communications backbone for the country.