Communications minister Stephen Conroy may have let his enthusiasm get the better of him at the National Press Club address this week but leaving the F-bomb faux pas aside, he certainly put on a good show, with his opposition counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull, and the Productivity Commission both copping a hefty serve.
Conroy’s speech was particularly well timed given the government’s attention really does need to shift towards spruiking the benefits of the NBN and it’s a point actually raised by the Productivity Commission report, which has subsequently sparked a renewed bout of political sabre rattling.
The report came into being at the behest of small fibre operators specialising in builds in new housing estates – OPENetworks, Comverge Networks and Service Elements – with the trio alleging that NBN Co was in breach of the competition neutrality rules. Their biggest gripe was that NBN Co’s aggressive entry into greenfield sites was undermining their business and that the company’s government funding and its low expected rate of return would give it an unfair advantage. There were also a host of other claims, all of which were largely brushed aside by the commission. To be fair, NBN Co has received a passing grade here, the only problem is the modest 7 per cent rate of return mandated by the government and the timeframe for achieving that rate of return. According to the Commission's report, both aspects represent "a potential ex ante breach of competitive neutrality policy”.