National Bloody Nuisance

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If anyone is surprised about the cost blowouts of the National Broadband Network (NBN)  they must have been hibernating. For as much as $91,000 to connect one home this sum would probably cover one’s fixed line, mobile, internet, wifi and FOXTEL subscription for life. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that in this day and age of ‘health & safety’ that to put in underground optic fibre requires 8 people – 5 to supervise, 2 females with traffic paddle pops and one bloke in the ditch with a shovel. Then multiply by 100s of thousands. The economics could be written in crayon such is the elementary nature of the formula.

I recall listening to talk back radio around the time NBN was launched when the sunshades at schools program was underway. Not a word of a lie, the government was shelling out near as makes no difference $1mn per school. Dozens of builders were calling in to say they could erect these structures with all of the concrete, steel poles, roofing materials and labour for 1/10th the cost. So digging holes and inserting optic fibre which will rapidly become redundant across a country with such massive distances between places was only ever going to be a white elephant.

Yet as ever governments are only too happy to cost things on the back of an envelope and tell us all of the rosy scenarios as to how it will come in on budget. If the taxpayer asks for clarity on the math, they are conveniently fobbed off. It is not unreasonable for taxpayers to want to receive full disclosure on how things are to be funded. If a CEO told his shareholders to take a hike when they requested the costings of major capex spending they’d be summarily fired. Every citizen has the right to transparency. Yet why is it the South Australian government celebrates clearly failed renewable policy with an extra $600m bill quickly drawn up on a Friday night? Instead of accountability we are told to use electricity more sparingly (even paid to stay off the grid).

So the NBN is another abject failure. Better to admit defeat and cauterize the gaping wound than to keep filling it with more limited taxpayer funds. At least Turnbull can blame the former government on implementing it in the first place, just as the incoming government can blame him for the disaster that is the $50bn submarines programme which is already running intro huge production issues before the design is even completed. We deserve better.

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