In the third last week, with pre-polls open and the electorate yet to become engaged, or so it is said, the Coalition became more shrill, and the policies still roll out. Of particular importance, I think, were Labor’s restoration of funds to the CSIRO and Labor’s NBN alternative. I’ll deal with those two and then tell you who is going to win the election.
Labor’s NBN plan
Turnbull’s NBN plan was to build fibre to the node (FTTN) rather than fibre to the home (FTTH), and use the existing copper network to the home. Those who want FTTH would have to pay.
Karl Kruszelnicki told us on local radio that he has been checking his internet speeds three times a day since the internet first appeared. Over about 10 years his copper connection deteriorated by 75%. NBN are finding the old copper network more rickety than expected. Also Telstra is reluctant to repair the old copper before it is passed over to the NBN, so we’ve had reports of people being without a phone for up to 50 days.
Some new suburbs are getting new copper, would you believe, while some old ones already have FTTH. A digital divide is being created.
Labor’s policy document tells us that Turnbull’s NBN was intended to cost $29.5 billion. The costs have now blown out to $56 billion. We were all to have download speeds of 25 megabytes per second by 2016. Seems it will take until 2020 or longer.
Currently, less than 20 per cent of the country can access the NBN, and Australia has slipped from 30th in the world for internet speeds to 60th.
Rod Tucker, Laureate Emeritus Professor at the University of Melbourne, takes a look at the two policies.
- Labor forecasts that its revamped NBN will be completed by June 2022, with FTTP being available to 2 million more homes and businesses than would have been the case under the Coalition’s current plans. At the completion of Labor’s NBN rollout, approximately 39% or around 5 million homes and businesses will have access to FTTP, compared to 20%, or 2.5 million, under the Coalition.
And for the longer term:
- Labor has promised to commission Infrastructure Australia to develop a plan to upgrade the 2.5 million premises served by FTTN to FTTP. This will mean that all fixed-line connections in Australia will eventually be either FTTP or HFC.
HFC is the Telstra and Optus’ hybrid fibre coaxial cables. Labor’s version will cost a couple of billion more, but no more taxpayer funds than the LNP’s.
Tucker seems to think the Labor costings are OK and it’s doable. He says the world is increasingly going to FTTP as they realise the importance of superfast broadband for economic growth. Broadband is seen as the key infrastructure of the 21st century.
A Productivity Commission report on digital disruption says 40 per cent of jobs could be threatened. Not sure they mentioned broadband but they should have.
Labor has promised to invest $250m in the CSIRO to reverse some of the Coalition’s funding cuts, and to immediately stop any further job cuts at the organisation, if it wins the election.
It will also commission an independent review of the CSIRO’s management team, and the functions the science agency performs, to ensure it is not “unduly influenced by the political whims of any government” in the future.
Labor’s industry spokesman, Senator Kim Carr, says the $250m would be provided over four years, with some of the money used to restore “core funding” for the institution.
Roger Jones tells the sordid tale of what happened and why. It’s about making money and picking up the ‘innovations’ agenda of the Turnbull government. It’s about making money, not science, and particularly not ‘public good’ science.
Michael Slezak looks at the import of a huge dump of emails.
- On 21 November, before a meeting at which that investigation was discussed, the deputy director of the oceans and atmosphere business unit, Andreas Schiller, sent an email summarising what CSIRO executives thought ought to be done.
The focus should be to “maximise impact on nation”, he said, and “not doing science for science sake”. He said “public good is not good enough, [it] needs to be linked to jobs and growth”.
The emails also reveal:
- surprisingly callous language in discussions about which researchers would be made redundant, with remarks from managers referring to employees’ age, their work hours and how strong their union links were.
Sounds like a cleanout of management wouldn’t go amiss. Roger Jones plans a future post on “What is public good research?”
Other policies included LNP matching Labor’s $100 million grant for a stadium in Townsville, probably the biggest boondogle of the election. The LNP’s grant will be contingent on the acceptance of their ‘better cities plan’.
The LNP also announced $1 billion over 10 years to protect the Great Barrier Reef allocated out of Clean Energy Finance Corporation funding, so at no additional cost. Actually it’s concessional loans rather than grant funding.
Labor has promised to establish the Environment Defenders Office as the final approval authority on developments that affect the environment. It has also announced a subsidy scheme for getting the long-term unemployed back to work.
Disappointingly, Labor as well as the LNP has left a huge funding hole for hospitals beyond the four-year forward budget estimates.
There’s more, of course, but Laura Tingle wonders whether there is anything else left to talk about.
Tingle’s article is an excellent election roundup. She believes that Labor has run out of puff as a serious challenger, and that Turnbull will return with about 80 seats.
On the ground, however, word is that Labor is not winning the marginal seats campaign, especially in NSW and Queensland, where it only has six of 30, and might actually lose one or two.
There are likely to be five ‘others’ – Katter, Wilkie, Bandt, McGowan, and perhaps in XT in SA or a Green in Higgins.
That would leave Labor/Other/ LNP at 65/5/80.
If that’s how the election winds up, Labor will say, “Thankyou, Bill, you did OK, but now it’s time to go.” Some say at 80 or fewer Turnbull’s hold on the top job also comes into question.
Meanwhile Scott Morrison’s head nearly exploded as he vented about a Labor-Green alliance. Lenore Taylor reckons he took the whole scare campaign thing to the brink of parody.
Chris Bowen in a 7.30 Report faceoff with ScoMo nearly got his hair blown off by the rantings that came his way. Nevertheless he got the last word in saying that’s all they’ve got.
Certainly, I think, all the scare campaigns are going to be recycled in the next two weeks, especially when Labor’s costings are revealed. It’s directed at swinging voters, who if they had any brains would have already made up their minds, and possibly have, they are just not saying yet.