In the chaos of the 2010 federal election, both major Australian parties were campaigning to form government by courting independent MPs. Rob Oakeshott, then the newly elected Member for Lyne, was weighing up the pros and cons of each coalition, and Tony Abbott’s position on the nascent NBN was a sticking point in their early relationship.
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Excerpts from Oakeshott’s memoir, obtained by ZDNet, show that then-Opposition leader Abbott’s NBN policy was “a shocker, totally without merit” according to the Independent MP. In the first week of the government election deadlock, Oakeshott’s diary shows his frustration:
“We again get stuck on climate change and the NBN… [Abbott] refuses to budge on both. I am again left feeling frustrated and unimpressed.”
Despite pledging to match all of Labor’s promises, Abbott wouldn’t budge on either his NBN policy — which involved scrapping the Labor-designed fibre to the home network, and creating a national fibre backbone with wireless and ADSL upgrades delivering incrementally faster speeds to customers — or his position on climate change and an emissions trading scheme. After more than two weeks of deadlock, Oakeshott eventually sided with Labor and Julia Gillard had the numbers to form a government.
During his time in Parliament, Oakeshott chaired the joint parliamentary committee on the NBN, moderating both Labor and Liberal politicians’ arguments on the topic. The NBN itself evolved significantly over his term of office; when the next election rolled around, the Coalition’s plan had evolved to a fibre to the node-based network, and eventually one based on the infamous “multi-technology mix”.
Oakeshott announced in June last year that he would not contest the September 2014 election; his seat in Lyne eventually went to Nationals senator David Gillespie in a 65-35 race against Labor’s Peter Alley. [ZDNet]