Coalition Avoiding NBN Policy Costing Review

In another piece of double standard rhetoric from the Coalition, Malcolm Turnbull has refused to submit his policies for his alternative National Broadband Network (NBN) to the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) for costing, prior to the September 7th election.

In a tweet last night, in direct response to being asked about whether or not he would submit his NBN plans to the PBO, Turnbull responded:

In effect, Turnbull is saying he won’t do it, because the PBO doesn’t have the ability to do it properly.

What Turnbull should do is submit it, and let the PBO decide how to handle it. I’m sure a parliamentary department has the ability to find someone with the ability to make judgements on the policy and its submitted costings.

Given the PBO has until thirty days after the election to produce its report on costing for submitted policies, they even have plenty of time to do the work.

Frankly, it is just a complete cop out.

It is also completely against standing what the Coalition has stated they will do with all of their policies before the election – such as this statement from last November:

“The Opposition has declared it will submit all of its policies to the parliamentary budget office but it will not release final costings until the last week of the election.”

“Coalition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey said they will not deliver a ‘consolidated statement’ of all their commitments until after the pre-election fiscal outlook is released 10 days after the election is called.”

Shifting the goalposts yet again.

It also seem curious when Turnbull himself keeps demanding more financial transparency from NBN Co:

“Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called for the Federal Government to ‘immediately’ commit to auditing the National Broadband Network rollout following reports that NBN contractors have stopped work in Ballarat, in news that represents the latest blow to the project’s already delayed rollout schedule.”

Turnbull should commit to the same financial standards that he wishes everyone else to commit to.

It certainly appears that what is good for the gander, is not good for the goose.

** UPDATE: 15/08/2013 13:33 ==========

Malcolm Turnbull has just tweeted that the decision not to submit his NBN policy to the PBO for costing was a ‘mutual conclusion’. While this may be the case, I still believe this is a convenient cop-out by Turnbull, and a lazy position for the PBO to take.

We deserve a far better outcome than a nil-all draw. It should also be noted that Turnbull did NOT mention this ‘mutual conclusion’ in the initial Twitter exchange, and is probably just happy he has a palatable excuse for not having to get the policy fully costed.

Regardless of now the less certain nature of this, the Coalition’s NBN policy remains uncosted – and this is still the major issue here.

** UPDATE: 16/08/2013 07:49 ==========

There still appears to be some doubt as to whether Turnbull did or did not ask for his NBN policy to be costed by the PBO, as reported by the Australian Financial Review late yesterday.

While this now simply may be a matter of semantics/language, there might still be something to this.

** UPDATE: 16/08/2013 08:38 ==========

Curiouser and curiouser. iTNews is reporting that Turnbull ‘decided against pursuing the services of external financial consultants to perform an independent costing after being turned down by the PBO, believing it unnecessary.’

“I don’t know that a lot could have been added [to our policy] by going through an independent costings exercise,” he said.

Sounds more and more like he was more than happy to accept the fact that the PBO felt they couldn’t do any justice towards costing the policy. He certainly doesn’t sound like he pushed back too hard.

…and still, the policy goes uncosted.

** UPDATE: 19/08/2013 12:02 ==========

Well, it seems Turnbull can do nothing but try and avoid the issue of getting his NBN plan costed. He was asked again this morning, and once again made every effort to avoid even answering the very direct question.

His credibility on this issue is fading fast – if it is not already dissolved.

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  • SimonReidy

    Excellent piece Michael. A total cop-out indeed.

  • Steve Jenkin

    As the NBN Co _investment_ is off-balance sheet, Turnbull should be obliged to supply a) a full Business Plan past 2040 and upgrade to full FTTP and b) declare the ROI he’ll achieve by 2040.

    Apples and Apples are required because NBN Co IS A BUSINESS and we, the taxpayers, are going to fund it AND cover any downside risk (losses).

    • Agree.

      The biggest issue for me in this story – (though it was initially just about Turnbull’s failure to ‘do the right thing’) – is the failure of the PBO to provide the transparency it was designed to provide.

      Do the chaps in the PBO have the technical knowledge to test the assumptions of a network plan? No, most likely they do not – and that in itself is not a problem.

      Failing to offer to seek someone(s) with the technical ability to do so? That’s just bloody lazy.

      Now it just gets down the to charter of budget honesty, which Turnbull is conveniently ignoring, because he has his “don’t have to do this now” sound bite.