The PM Doesn’t Know His Own Policy

It sometimes feels like Abbott is stuck in a permanent boxing match with himself.

It sometimes feels like Abbott is stuck in a permanent boxing match with himself.

Yesterday Prime Minister Tony Abbott held a joint doorstop interview with Bruce Billson MP to discuss various matters from carbon pricing to asylum seekers. The last question asked was to the point & directly challenged the PM regarding the removal of planned works from NBN Co’s website.

What ensued was dripping with misinformation, hypocrisy, & an inability to grasp even the basics of technology or infrastructure. I would have said this is embarrassing for Tony Abbott, but the man knows no shame, & has no qualms about telling porkies to the press.

The question asked of Abbott is as follows:

On the NBN, have you broken your word by cancelling the NBN roll-out to the homes promised it within the year?

The PM’s response is littered with misinformation:

No, we haven’t broken our word. It was always misleading of the NBN to claim that the roll-out was taking place when all that had actually happened was that planning had begun for a roll-out to take place sometime in the far distant future. The whole NBN was based on misleading assertions and promises that were constantly being made and constantly being broken. The NBN, under Labor, was way over budget, it was way behind schedule. For the first time in its existence there is now honesty about the NBN. For the first time since it began, people are being honest and fair dinkum and straight about the national broadband network because the NBN is going to operate on a very different basis under the Coalition. Because we’re going to put fibre to distribution points and then use, in most cases, existing technology, we can deliver much faster broadband, much more affordably and much sooner than under the former government’s plans.

Our guarantee is that in three years’ time every household in Australia will have access to download speeds of 25 megabits. Now, this is five times the current average maximum download. This is going to be a massive improvement on the current situation. This is going to be an achievement that would simply have been impossible under the Labor government because the Labor government was determined to dig up virtually every street in Australia. It wasn’t a broadband project, it was an infrastructure project. We are going to bring it back to core business and that’s why it’s going to be far more successful under the Coalition than it ever would have been under the former government.

From the onset the PM has completely ignored the question claiming that planned works on the NBN Co website were “misleading” & showing planned works to take place “sometime in the far distant future”. That’s wrong for a start, planned works a year out are not in the “far distant future”, but planned to commence one year from then. Yes, things have changed on occasion, & having been impacted myself it is a little bit of a piss-off, but understandable in a project of this size.

Then Abbott goes on to talk about promises. Firstly, I don’t recall any promises being made, I recall policies that set targets. I even recall corporate plans that showed predicted growth, yet not promises. Yes there has been a few months of slowdowns early on, in no small part due to Telstra dragging their heels on the pit & pipe access, but at the election the project is only delayed by a matter of weeks if that. The same cannot be said for now, as I wrote yesterday.

Then we get another line of spin to go with the other: way over budget & way behind schedule. Considering the 10% contingency fund has not been touched, any claim of being “over budget” is just rhetoric designed to debase NBN Co. Then again, this is what we are coming to expect from a PM who has mislead voters about a “budget emergency”, shown massive hypocrisy on the debt ceiling, & rorted travel expenses.

Abbotts next claim that transparency has gone up is laughable. We’re talking about one of the most secretive governments in recent years, doing all they can to suppress information reaching the public. In fact, NBN Co’s own site is a testament to the Liberal party’s hate of transparency, with the Access Seeker’s part now unavailable to the public, as are many of the other areas vital for gleaning information on the rollout. All that’s happened is the data has been filtered & “fixed” by Ziggy’s team & posted on a single page. We now have no idea what exchanges are having work done, what FSAMs are going live, which are in pre-build status, what Telstra is doing, etc. Just data that I examined yesterday.

All we can conclude from the data is the rollout has been halted just days after Turnbull publicly stated it would continue.

I do like how the PM uses the term “existing technology” like he knows what that means. No, you’ll be using existing cable, with all it’s faults & problems, with out of date DSL technology. The assertion this will somehow be cheaper & quicker than rolling out FTTP is starting to loose merit with the fact that as this week Turnbull needs over 50 cabinets to go in every weekday. By the time the reviews are finished, this number will be closer to 100. That’s almost a cabinet every 5 minutes during an 8 hour work day. If they want to push overtime, I sure hope there’s room in the budget for that.

Name me a contractor that can keep up with this demand, because I know that most are struggling with basic fibre hauling where there’s no need to set concrete & cut over corroded 25, 50, 100-pair cables.

The second part of the PM’s answer is where we get into the danger zone. This is we reach the peak of bullshit mountain. Expecting no one would read their policy, which I have, at length, the PM guarantees that “every household in Australia will have access to download speeds of 25 megabits” in three years time.

Oh really? Let’s double check that shall we:

Rollout Priorities

Hello, what’s that? 65% of the FTTN portion will be complete by 2016-17. That’s not in 3 years, that’s in 4 years, & that’s not “every household in Australia”, that’s 65% of them.

Oh, but the other 35% will have HFC, I hear you say. Well, it’s not that simple. If you live in an MDU it’s difficult at best to get HFC, if you want it, expect to cough up in the order of $10k-$20k to have ALL the apartments hooked up, yes, you need to do this. Then there’s the fact that Optus are shutting down their HFC network, so essentially you’ll have a choice of Telstra, or… ummm… Telstra.

Add to this that 35% of the 8 698 000 premises covered by the LNP’s FTTN footprint is over 3 million premises. If we look at HFC take up rates we can see that this is three times the current subscriber base. No doubt due to cost, inability to access the service, & terrible performance.

Then we get to the reality that moving 2 million people onto Telstra’s HFC network will take the 1Gbps:200user ratio to 1Gbps:600users, meaning peak time speeds could drop from 5Mbps to less than 2Mbps. Not exactly ’25Mbps to every household’.

Then there’s the claim that has been roundly disproved that Turnbull’s FTTN shambles will make money. Apart from the low-balling of maintenance costs, there’s miscalculations regarding Telstra negotiations & assumptions on pricing. Don’t forget, vectoring costs are NOT included in the plan.

It’s clear that Abbott wasn’t paying attention when Turnbull stated that the rollout would continue until the reviews are completed. Instead, he decided to talk off the top of his head on a subject he has little to no grasp of. Not only this, he has made a guarantee that will come back to haunt him next election. To guarantee you can get 25Mbps to ‘every household’ in three years would be an admirable ambition, if we didn’t already know that this is physically impossible with the size of the workforce involved in the NBN.

The whole doorstop was what I’d have expected from an opposition leader: electioneering disguised as a press conference. This is not the attitude of someone who has won government, but that of a small man with small ideas. He’s been tasked with being a rabid attack dog, but Credlin forgot the basic rule of rabid animals: they won’t stop attacking.

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