Tue, 01 Feb 2022 - 10:01
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Delivering speed to burn

Australians really needed good broadband. And when the NBN was called on, it delivered.

Critical to this was that when the pandemic hit, 98 per cent of premises around Australia were able to connect to the NBN: around 11 million in all.

But that only happened because our Liberal-National government turned around the trainwreck of a project we inherited from Labor in 2013.

Thanks to the way we completely changed the plan, the rollout speed dramatically increased. If we had stuck with the plan we inherited from Labor, it is likely up to five million fewer premises would have been able to connect.

When Mr Albanese gives the NBN as an example of what Labor would do differently, Australians should look at his track record. When Labor left government in 2013, Mr Albanese was the communications minister.

On his watch, the total number of premises connected to the fixed line NBN was barely more than 50,000.

This was after Labor had six years in government to deliver on the NBN it promised at the 2007 election, and it had spent six billion dollars.

Here is what Mr Albanese said in 2013 when asked about this poor performance: “We are rolling out the NBN as fast as it can be rolled out ... this is the largest infrastructure project in Australia's history (and) you can't click your fingers and just get it done.”

Actually, it was possible to do a much better job, as we showed once we got into government.

In his speech, Mr Albanese failed to say what he would actually do differently with the NBN if he was in government.

After all, the Morrison government has already done the heavy lifting on getting the NBN rolled out. Today there are more than 12 million premises now able to connect and 8.4 million actually connected.

We have done the heavy lifting on turning around the NBN's financial performance. It has annualised revenues of $4.6bn for FY21 and $1.25bn for the first quarter of FY22 and is now generating positive EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation).

And we have done the heavy lifting on developing and putting in place a plan for the continuing upgrade of the NBN. We announced it over a year ago and we are already getting on with delivering it.

Our plan involves a $4.5bn investment commitment, under which eight million premises will be able to order a speed of up to one gigabit per second - that's one thousand megabits per second, or blazing fast broadband - by the end of 2023.

Our plan also includes $700m for 240 business fibre zones around the country. In these fibre zones, businesses can order a one-gigabit-persecond business-grade optical fibre connection with no upfront connection charge and monthly wholesale price the same as in the CBDs of our biggest cities, whether in Geraldton, Coffs Harbour, Launceston or Mt Gambier.

Mr Albanese repeatedly tells Australians that he has lots of infrastructure experience and that is why they should trust him to be prime minister.

But his track record with what Labor frequently called Australia's biggest infrastructure project hardly gives much reason for confidence.

When it comes to the NBN, it took our Liberal-National government to deliver it, and now we are well advanced on further major upgrades to the NBN.

If you care about the NBN, why would you take the risk of changing to a government led by a man who failed to get the NBN delivered when he was the minister?

This article appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 1 February 2022