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Friday, October 22, 2010

We might get a National Broadband Network AND a cost benefit study

NBN Co

The Productivity Commission is ready

Odds have shortened on a public inquiry into the costs and benefits of the proposed National Broadband Network with the Productivity Commission saying it would be prepared to conduct the inquiry even though the project is already under way.

Asked at a Senate hearing whether such a project should be subject to a cost benefit analysis as the Coalition contends, the Commission's administrative head Michael Kirby said it had always supported "strong policy-making procedures".

"The key steps are considering the objectives you want to achieve, considering the full
range of options that might help, considering the impacts and the costs and benefits of the various alternatives and then making a selection that leads to the greatest net benefits to the Australian community."

"That's the way to go." It would not be too late to conduct the inquiry even though the work had started.

Asked whether some projects were too big and too visionary to be assessed by a cost-benefit inquiry... Dr Kirby said the Commission had a good deal of experience examining proposals with social or unknowable benefits.

"We document known costs and benefits and there's an elemnet of judgement about the rest."

"It's the approach we applied examining gambling, non profit organisations, disabilities and aged care. These are important issues with a social dimension. They are well suited to our processes."

Coalition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull will Monday introduce a private members bill that would direct the Commission to inquire into the current availability of broadband and to consider the most cost effective and quick means of extending it to all Australians.

The government will oppose the bill arguing it is an attempt to delay the network.

"It won't delay it at all," Mr Turnbull told ABC TV's Lateline. "Work has started and would continue. It's an eight-year project. The Commission would report by May."

Asked what the Commission might uncover Mr Turnbull said as many as 30 per cent of Australian households were already passed by cables capable of being upgraded to 100 Megabits per second. "It is a big question whether we should subsidize those speeds, but if we decide to it might make sense not to dismantle cables that are already able to deliver them."

Dr Kirby told the Senate committee the Commission would convene public hearings around the country if asked to conduct the inquiry.

Published in today's SMH and Age


Note the key steps:

. Considering the objectives you want to achieve,

. Considering the full range of options that might help,

. Considering the impacts and the costs and benefits of the various alternatives, and then

. Making a selection that leads to the greatest net benefits to the Australian community.


But they would already have done this, right?



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