Gillard: Can we afford not to have the NBN?

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has rejected fears that the $43 billion price tag on the National Broadband Network (NBN) may be better invested in hospitals.

Yesterday Gillard sat between Westpac CEO Gail Kelly and Telstra chair Catherine Livingstone at the Australian Israel Chamber of Commerce business leader’s lunch in Sydney.

When asked about the cost of the NBN, she said: "The question about cost needs to be reverse engineered. Can we afford not to have this technology when our competitors do?

"The nations in our region: Singapore, Korea, they are getting this technology. If we leave ourselves behind where does this leave our economy in such a competitive world?"

"And the technology, we studied hard and we believe that it is future-proof, it will be the durable technology and will transform the way we do business, the way we deliver education, the way we deliver healthcare and so much more," Ms Gillard added.

Telstra chairperson Catherine Livingstone did not make any comments on the cost of the NBN however advised businesses to start looking at some of the benefits it could bring to their industry. 

"Putting in fibre into the ground is just the first step. What we then need is quite a significant degree of investment by business in terms of products and services that can take advantage of the capability that is being put in. Those products and services is part of what Telstra will be doing," she said.

"Small business in particular will benefit and will need to invest at the same time to get that capability."