Monday, September 27, 2010

Rewriting history

Communications Day today has a lead story that begins;

Shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has sought to shed his
media-bestowed mantle of ‘NBN demolisher’, instead emphasising the need
for transparency, accountability and more informed debate on the project.

I thought this a big call - I'm sure I heard Tony Abbott utter the word "demolish" in his press conference announcing the shadow ministry. He did but the usage was a little more nuanced than the media has since used it. He said, in part,;

Who better to hold the Government to account here than Malcolm Turnbull, who is restored to the Opposition frontbench as Shadow Minister for Communications and who has the technical expertise and the business experience to entirely demolish the Government on this issue.

So it is not the NBN that Mr Turnbull is seeking to demolish, merely the Government. While that leaves open the other question of how constructive the coalition plans to be, there is nothing wrong with "holding the government to account". However, to date the coalition has not done that, it has simply sought to delay and obstruct the NBN.

On the single biggest claim - the call for a benefit-cost analysis - it is not good ground for Malcolm Turnbull. Do we all remember his $10B Murray-Darling plan, that not only had no CBA it had not even been referred to Treasury before being announced.

He also demonstrates that he confuses a CBA with a financial analysis, ka a business case. The business case is inherently part of the NBN Co business plan. I am bemused about how anyone expected the business plan to be prepared by anyone other than NBN Co.

The one legislative issue should be the question of the NBN Co enabelling legislation and the provisions in it for providing the shareholding Ministers with a business plan. That part of the Bill could be amended to ensure greater "transparency" of the business plan. It might not be viable to make it full public but it might well be viable to expose it to in camera scrutiny of a joint house committee.

Depressingly, Malcolm seems to have learnt from the republic debate all the tricks the monarchists used to kill a good idea.

No comments: