While the matter has since died down, one of the key issues that has been haunting the NBN is the lack of a cost benefit analysis. It is one of the key issues that the opposition has been raising. There is, on the other hand, widespread acknowledgment of the difficulties attached to providing any meaningful analysis on this topic, due to the large-scale character of this national infrastructure plan and the long periods of time it encompasses.
However there are some very relevant questions on the table. The government is clearly positioning the NBN as national infrastructure, linked to the digital economy, and it has identified the social and economic benefits related to sectors such as healthcare, education, energy and the environment. It has initiated policies aimed at using the NBN to achieve better outcomes for these sectors – via cost savings and a better, more efficient and productive service delivery of these services.
However, in the legislation and the NBN Co business plan the NBN is largely positioned as a telecoms network, with no clear reference being made to those social and economic benefits. Its revenue structure is based purely on telecoms income and does not take into account any social and economic benefits. This leads to ambiguity – for example, in relation to whether NBN Co should design the NBN as a telecoms network, or whether it should already, in its design and construction, ensure that the specific requirements of these other sectors are taken into account.
These issues are not going to go away and the government should therefore address them as a matter of urgency. If this is not done the NBN could be faced with serious delays if the opposition were to win the next election, since it has indicated that it would first want to investigate these cost benefits before continuing with any broadband plan it might develop.
Table of Contents
Number of pages 15
Last updated 27 Aug 2014
Analyst: Paul Budde
As you know, I have resigned from the Labor Ministry and have decided not to re-contest the seat of Charlton at the next election – both for personal reasons.
Before leaving Parliament, I particularly wish to record my thanks to you for your generous and constructive participation in the deliberations that generated significant economic policy reforms for the Australian community. Continuous economic transformation is a key challenge that faces all Governments.
The development of sound public policy should always be contestable. Ultimately, good and equitable outcomes are not concessions to any particular interest group, but the careful balancing of interests to create the greatest possible benefit for the nation. You have contributed to that, and I sincerely thank you for it.
Greg Combet, Former Minister for Climate Change, Industry and Innovation
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A selection of downloadable samples from our Annual Publications catalogue.