Following the political dictum not to waste a good crisis, Australia’s
government-in-exile opposition Liberal Party has chosen the country’s floods as the current opportunity to attack the government’s NBN.
Abbott has said “The one thing you don't do is re-do your bathroom when the roof has just been blown off and that's the situation that we find ourselves in right now,” which apparently means “don’t build the NBN”.
He has found support from the Business Council of Australia, whose past opposition to the NBN (“too expensive” in 2009, “needs cost-benefit analysis” in 2010) has showed a startling coincidence with Liberal Party policy.
At the time of writing, the opposition’s communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull has decided not to indulge in disaster politics.
The Liberals’ call appears intended to pressure the government over its commitment to fund the flood recovery while maintaining its promise to return its budget to surplus in the 2012-13 financial year. Economists, unions, and even Australian Industry Group CEO Heather Ridout have all said the government’s “return to surplus” timetable should be re-cast to take the floods into account.
The government has dismissed the idea of delaying the NBN. Nor, it seems, is there any enthusiasm for the idea that flood-damaged copper should be immediately replaced by fibre. Industry newsletter Communications Day reports today that neither Telstra nor NBN Co believe the floods present an opportunity for immediate fibre rollout.
NBN: The National Broadband Network is the Australian federal government's plan to deploy fibre-to-the-premises to the bulk of the population.