The Greens’ push to keep the NBN in public hands

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has pledged to try and stop the privatisation of Labor’s National Broadband Network (NBN).

Labor has stated previously that they planned to sell the government’s majority stake in NBN Co within five years of the network being operational. However, Senator Ludlam believes this move would recreate problems we have seen previously in Australia.

"After the final privatisation of Telstra we were left with a market that was a combination of the worst of both worlds, because you had a vertically integrated telco which was using its monopoly power to extend its control. This has led to slow and expensive broadband to end users because competition was stifled," Senator Ludlam said.

"Let's not repeat that mistake. If we are going to the trouble of building the NBN, if we are going to the trouble of separating Telstra and putting its customers on the NBN, then shouldn't we leave the ownership of this important asset in public hands and let competition thrive at the retail sector?"

If Labor does not open the issue up for discussion, Mr Ludlam has said that the Greens will use their balance of power in the Senate next July to ensure the issue is up for discussion.

Independent MP Tony Windsor has also criticised the proposed privatisation of the NBN. He cited issues that arose over the Howard government’s privatisation of Telstra, which lead to job losses, poor services and a lower share price. If the key independents back the Greens to keep the NBN in public hands, it could keep Labor from selling the NBN Co to other companies.

Opposition Communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull believed that Labor may back out of their pledge to privatise the network.

"The real problem with privatising is they'll never be able to recover their investment," he said. "This project is proceeding on a falsehood that they are building an asset that will be worth what they paid to build it." 

Smaller telcos have also voiced concerns over the privatisation of NBN Co, fearing that Telstra would be replaced by another monopoly power.