In Senate Question Time today, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Communications Minister Mitch Fifield tried to deny the Government’s clear broken promise on funding the NBN.
The Government’s decision to complete the NBN rollout through a $19.5 billion government loan is a complete backflip on everything it has been saying for the past three years.
As recently as May this year under questioning at Senate Estimates, when asked if the Government was leaving open the possibility of more Government funding for NBN, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said:
“No. The equity cap that is in place is $29.5 billion, and our planning is for nbn to source the remaining funding requirements by raising debt from external markets. We have outlined that very clearly. We believe and are confident that that will be able to be achieved.
And only a few days later, on 13 May 2016, when asked about the rollout cost Communications Minister Mitch Fifield responded:
“Well, the Commonwealth has indicated that our cap on equity contributions will be $29.5 billion. NBN will have to borrow money beyond that, but $29.5 billion is the Commonwealth cap.”
Today, these Ministers tried to distract attention from their clear backflip by talking about the difference between ‘equity’ and a ‘loan’ and claimed the Turnbull Government’s flawed copper NBN is going from ‘strength to strength.’
‘Strength to strength’ must be this Government’s shorthand for ‘broken promise to broken promise’. They are in complete denial, but Australians can compare their actions to what they promised simply by looking at the Prime Minister’s website which states unequivocally:
“Public funding of $29.5 billion will be required for a Coalition NBN.”
Apparently, the Government had a unique insight only after the election that it can borrow money at a cheaper rate than NBN can. It has known this since 2013, what has changed since then?
The Government should just come clean that markets have rebuked their sham copper NBN.
There are still many questions left unanswered about the Government’s decision to grant this $19.5 billion loan. The Government is treating the Australian people with contempt by not explaining:
- Was the Government advised that private lenders were lacking confidence in the Coalition’s NBN and the long-term liability of using copper?
- What did NBN recommend to Government after receiving its credit rating?
- What did Finance and Treasury recommend to Cabinet?
It’s no surprise that Australians have lost confidence in the economic credentials of this Prime Minister and this Government.
When it comes to managing the NBN, Australia’s largest infrastructure project, any semblance of credibility they may have had has evaporated over the past week.