Rushed, chaotic and inadequate: that’s how Labor’s NBN rollout has been described by the former head of the Productivity Commission.
Bill Scales has found the Rudd cabinet gave only what he calls “perfunctory” consideration to the $ 43 billion second stage of the project.
His report says cabinet only spent 11 weeks setting up NBN Co, which Mr Scales describes as not “fit for purpose”.
Communications Minister at the time of Labor’s NBN roll out, Senator Stephen Conroy, has spoken out in defence on ABC Radio.
“Mr Scales isn’t aware of all of the evidence and all of the deliberations. There was an alternative position discussed, but Mr Scales is not aware of that because it was discussed in cabinet committees.”
The project has since been marked by delays and cost blowouts – things Mr Scales says could have been avoided if a business case or cost-benefit analysis was carried out.
His report recommends any large infrastructure projects included in election commitments be independently costed by the Productivity Commission or Infrastructure Australia, with full costs to be made public.
He also calls for public infrastructure projects worth over $1 billion to be subject to a public cost benefit analysis.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull says it’s already Coalition policy to have a cost-benefit analysis for projects worth more than $100 million.
Senator Conroy is asking why the government is spending so much money commissioning six reports into Labor’s NBN.
“Why is Malcolm Turnbull spending $10 million of taxpayers’ money to attack the NBN? Because his policy is a dog. He’s failed to meet his own election commitment where he said he’d get 90 per cent of Australians with 25 meg speeds by 2016 – already abandoned.”
But Mr Turnbull says the reviews are valuable.
“It’s very important to learn from the mistakes of the past. The purpose for doing this audit is so that you have an independent, sober assessment of what happened, the mistakes that were made, and we learn from those mistakes and let’s hope we don’t make them again, because there is tens of billions wasted because of this.”
The Abbott government’s cost benefit analysis of the current broadband roll-out is due to be published within months.