Kevin Rudd was a waste of a prime minister, but he was right about one thing: the importance of a national broadband network.
How Turnbull sacrificed the NBN
The NBN, as it is now known, was potentially, as Rudd suggested, the most important infrastructure project since the Snowy Mountain Scheme. Given its reach and implications, I'd argue that it was more so.
Got an NBN horror story? Air your grievances with us. We're listening!
While I am no expert, I have no doubt that Rudd and his Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, got their estimates of the total cost wrong. With government projects, this is more often the case than not. They minimise initial political pain by being very optimistic.
I also have no doubt that Rudd and Conroy got the timing estimate wrong. I recall very few government projects that were completed within the forecast time and I know very few people who expect them to be.
But that is were the errors of Rudd and Conroy stop.
The real disaster regarding the NBN was caused by the most disappointing Australian Prime Minister Australia of my lifetime, the then-Minister for Telecommunications Malcolm Turnbull.
In his effort to appear competent, and with a view to following his then leader Tony Abbott, Minister Turnbull replaced fibre to the home with fibre to the node.
In other words, rather than having the six-lane superhighway running directly into our homes and businesses, Turnbull decided that we should save time and money by stopping it just outside its destination and completing the journey with a one-lane gravel track.
As a result, the NBN is super-fast to the node down the street, but super-slow from there to the house or office -- significantly reducing, and/or eliminating, any benefit.
A report on the NBN released last week highlighted findings that the telecommunication companies will be unable to deliver high-speed internet services where there is not fibre to the home.
On that basis alone, the outcome should be logical to anyone. If you poor water down a thick pipe for 10 meters and then a thin pipe for the last two, it will come out at a rate and volume determined by the thinner pipe. It's not rocket science.
Now, underestimating the cost of the NBN, as Rudd and Conroy did, is not good. But the fact is, Turnbull also underestimated the cost and the budget is again blown. Furthermore – if it costs a little more and you get a good outcome, you will live with it. But thanks to Turnbull, Australia is getting an NBN that in addition to costing more than he predicted, is substandard.
If it, the NBN, cannot deliver what is promised, as so many consumers are finding, it doesn't matter how much it cost.
Underestimating the time frame, as Rudd and Conroy did, is not ideal, especially as this has a flow-on effect to costs and delays when consumers can benefit from what their taxes are paying for.
But the fact is, Turnbull also underestimated the time involved in completing the project and when consumers do get it, they will be getting a substandard product.
If it, the NBN, cannot deliver what is promised, as so many consumers are finding it cannot, it really does not matter when it is finished.
What Turnbull did not tell us, is that he is a weak man. In his efforts to please his prime minister at the time and win some brownie points in the electorate, he sacrificed the most important infrastructure project in generations.
For the sake of political point scoring, Turnbull sold and delivered a solution that will fail to deliver the benefits promised, and will ultimately cost time, money, consumer confidence and lives.
Limiting the capacity for the medical profession to make full use of the benefits of a broadband system will cost lives.
Malcolm Turnbull still won't admit that he sold us all a lemon!!