Turnbull accuses Labor of "pork barrelling"

Malcolm Turnbull has accused the Labor party of “pork barrelling” in its rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Turnbull, shadow minister for communications and broadband, made the comments in response to a report in The Australian yesterday which revealed 59 per cent of suburbs scheduled for construction of the NBN this year and 2013 are in Labor electorates. This compares to only 35 per cent in Coalition electorates.

“This suggests the NBN will reach almost twice as many households in Labor-held areas as in Coalition-held areas between now and the next election, even though the Coalition holds 73 seats in the House of Representatives and Labor only 72,” Turnbull said in a statement.

“The Coalition does not believe broadband investment should favour either Labor or Liberal seats. It should prioritize [sic] areas that are in most urgent need of better connectivity. But NBN Co stated it was unable to even identify specific geographic areas with sub-standard broadband when questioned at [the] Senate Estimates [hearing] on 24 May.

“This leaves Senator Conroy with one question to answer: why is it that the rollout has such a skew to Labor-held areas?”

The newspaper report quoted Andrew Sholl, NBN Co spokesperson, as stating electorate maps were not reviewed when the NBN rollout was being planned.

Instead, rollout locations were based on points of interconnect (PoI) chosen by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, according to a spokesperson for Stephen Conroy, minister for broadband, communications and the digital environment.

The report also stated one of the largest discrepancies was in New South Wales and Victoria, where 82 per cent of suburbs to begin NBN construction in 2012 and 2013 were in Labor electorates. However, it stated in Queensland and South Australia, Labor electorates accounted for only 53 per cent.

“Labor’s $50 billion National Broadband Network may have been devised on the back of a beer coaster, but its rollout appears to have been planned on a whiteboard in Stephen Conroy’s office,” Turnbull said.

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