While it was in government (1996-2007) the Coalition’s telecoms policy was focused on the privatisation of Telstra, and during that time scant attention was given to the need for universal broadband and competition; because of this Australia fell behind its international trading partners in affordable high-speed broadband services.
Towards the end of that period it started to develop policies to address these issues, a key element of which was a $1 billion investment in a regional wireless broadband plan, known as OPEL. At that point it also began to warm up to the idea of the structural separation of Telstra, but no firm policies were announced.
The Labor Opposition went into the 2007 election with a more substantial plan, promising a $4.7 billion investment into a National Broadband Network. Partly due to this Labor won that election.
Subsequently the Coalition, now in opposition, withdrew from the industry discussion that emerged around the Labor Government’s plans for a national broadband network (NBN). The industry was extremely disappointed at the Coalition’s lack of participation but it could not be persuaded, choosing simply to oppose the NBN in its entirety. Increasingly, the message from the Federal Opposition was to ‘kill the NBN at all costs’.
It was only after it lost the 2010 election that it, still reluctantly, became involved in the debate. By that time, however, it was too little too late, as the government, together with the regulators and the industry (including Telstra), had already arrived at a collective agreement on the future of Australian telecommunications.
Finally, in August 2011, the Coalition delivered a more substantial plan, an outline and analysis of which is contained in this report.