Did Malcolm Turnbull make an about-face when it comes to the government's NBN accounting policy?
Technology Spectator this week thought it would be a good idea to post an open letter to Shadow Communcations Minister Malcolm Turnbull, challenging him on anything and everything when it came to the Federal Opposition's national high-speed broadband plan.
• Just who is going to own the company that will do the FTTN-NBN roll-out? • Is Turnbull prepared to guarantee that NBN Co will be left with a competitive business model, able to service debts and commitments already entered into? • How can he guarantee "$20 billion in savings" if they don't appear on the Federal Government balance sheet?
Turnbull — not one to be outdone — wrote a lengthy response on his blog, slamming Technology Spectator for a piece "full of indignation that the Coalition would dare to criticise the NBN Co’s fibre to the premises strategy". Criticism aside, Turnbull gave lengthy answers to all the questions, which I encourage you all to read.
One answer was very telling though, and it looks as if Malcolm Turnbull is almost prepared to accept the fact that the $38.6 billion cost of the NBN doesn't belong on the budget:
As far as the balance sheet point is concerned, let us just cut through the fog of spin and nonsense here. A dollar saved on the NBN Co build is a dollar less for the Commonwealth to borrow and service with interest. Under the accounting rules the expenditure on the NBN does not count towards the budget outcome – so much deficit or surplus – but it is cash – real money – nonetheless and it does add to the debt burden of Australians.
Some have said that this drives a wedge between Turnbull and the rest of the party, but I just think it demonstrates a better understanding of the policy from the Shadow Communications Minister than from, say, the Shadow Treasurer.
Meanwhile, the NBN went live to 354 homes and businesses in Geraldton this week, and the National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) has reported a boom in service providers signing up to offer NBN plans, up from five to 40 in just 12 months.