Despite the government previously insisting that its NBN business plan could not be released because sections of it were commercial in confidence, Julia Gillard and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy finally coughed it up yesterday after pressure from independent senator Nick Xenophon.
The cough-up came after Xenophon threatened to withhold his support for the government’s NBN bill, which has been debated in the Senate this week. The 37 page document details the changes in law necessary to split up wholesale and retail components of Telstra in order to pave the way for the NBN. The total cost has been lowered from $43 billion to $35.7 billion.
One interpretation of yesterday’s events was that it constituted a back down from Gillard. After initially using the “b” word himself Xenophon then played another round of back down, backing down from his description of the government’s move as a back down. He said yesterday afternoon:
This is not about a back down. This is about sensible compromise being reached and this is good for consumers, it is good for businesses and it is good for certainty for Telstra shareholders.
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Another way to interpret the events was as further evidence of Gillard’s talents as a negotiator. As Greg Jericho wrote:
What it also shows (again) is that Julia is a master negotiator. Doing what Rudd was pretty loathe to ever do she actually got involved with negotiations with Senators and got the job done.
Media responses were divided, with some riding the back down bandwagon while others focused on Xenophon, the costings and the future of Telstra. Here’s a snapshot of what the pundits had to say:
Matthew Franklin and Lauren Wilson: PM caves on broadband details
Julia Gillard has buckled to political pressure from independent senators to save Labor’s proposed National Broadband Network.
The PM has abandoned her refusal to release the business case for the massive communications project.
John Durie: Share the blame on NBN impasse
Stephen Conroy’s goal was simply to get to the NBN legislation through parliament and the enabling deal with Nick Xenophon was a joke.
Conroy looks to have achieved his objective.
Kevin Morgan: No answers on universal service
Was it worth holding out for and is the sketchy outline of the NBN’s business case sufficient to warrant the independent senator, and indeed the Senate at large, supporting the passage of the most far-reaching changes seen in any telecommunications market?
Scarcely. The summary adds little to our understanding of the economics of the NBN that is not already outlined in the $25 million McKinsey implementation study, other than to stress the importance to the NBN of an effective national monopoly.
Greg Jericho: On the QT: Lift and separate (structurally)
And so Julia came to the rescue.
After a fair bit of bluster and a good deal of brinkmanship by the Senator Xenophon, Julia got into the room, did the deal and released the summary of the NBN Business Plan. It is being reported as a 50 page summary – but it’s only 36 pages.
So what does the summary tell us? Well for a start it tells us that perhaps the ALP needs to work on its strategy.
Emma Chalmers: Cheap broadband fast approaching
However, the document says the promise of cheaper prices relies on the NBN reaching goals for take-up of services, higher speeds and increased data usage over time.
More than 12 million premises will be serviced via the network either by fibre-to-the-home, fixed wireless or satellite and the company is relying on 8.3 million of those premises to connect to its services.
The Daily Telegraph
Simon Benson: National Broadband Network to be a faster saver
Bundled internet and telephone services could be up to $400 a year cheaper for consumers who hook up to the superfast National Broadband Network.
The Federal Government yesterday issued a guarantee that NBN customers would pay cheaper rates for services up to 1000 times faster than what is currently offered.
Michelle Grattan: Secrecy or just arrogance?
When she had to, she could do it. So why not earlier? Why didn’t Julia Gillard and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy release the summary of the NBN Co business plan days ago?
Clancy Yates: Big promises, lower costs, high hurdles for NBN
The company delivering the national broadband network is promising high-speed internet services at a lower cost to consumers, but concedes there are big hurdles facing the project in the coming months.
Lucy Battersby: NBN’s $14b gift to Telstra
Under the provisional financial heads of agreement, Telstra says it will receive $9 billion in post-tax net present value, but the business plan reveals it will reap more than $14 billion once tax and inflation are taken into account.