Oct 24, 2017

NBN farce the result of a neoliberal absurdity

Malcolm Turnbull says we shouldn't have started from where we did on the NBN -- problem is, we didn't have much choice, thanks to market economics.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

The Prime Minister urgently needs a better line about the NBN. Malcolm Turnbull's response to every question about the NBN since the 2013 election has been to blame Labor for spending too much on fibre-to-the-premises technology, overseeing a slow rollout and treating the NBN as an asset, thus keeping it in the capital account of the budget and out of the budget deficit. But that's been going on for four years now, and -- for reasons both within his control and beyond it -- voters associate the growing debacle around the network entirely with him.

Now the NBN experience of huge numbers of customers is proving underwhelming. In particular, customers blame the NBN for slow speeds. NBN blames internet service providers for not purchasing sufficient capacity. ISPs blame NBN for charging too much for capacity. NBN blames its high prices on the need to earn a return on the government's investment. The PM blames that on Kevin Rudd, saying NBN should never have been expected to make a return (Rudd blames News Corp, a longstanding and nonsensical myth). Indeed, Turnbull's been saying for some months that NBN wasn't going to turn a handsome profit -- in April he said that NBN was making a return but it wasn't "what a commercial employer would want or a bank would want."

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