Opposition leader John Key says National is unlikely to spend taxpayers’ money on building broadband infrastructure in the way both Australian political parties now promise to do.
During a presentation in Auckland last week, Key indicated a National government would not want to be locked into any particular delivery mechanism for broadband.
Key spoke approvingly of Australian efforts to deliver fast, affordable broadband, but in answer to questions after his speech backed away from suggesting National would emulate the Australian example. He says this is because it is unlikely any one delivery mechanism would meet the needs of all New Zealanders.
Key also referred approvingly to several Labour initiatives in the area, including the Probe project to deliver improved access to rural areas.
Under National, government programmes to deliver access will likely take the form of subsidies rather than direct investment, he says. Offering subsidies for satellite dishes is one potential example.
New Zealand could be facing slightly different issues from those in Australia, he says, and National is watching what’s going on there.
In March, the Australian Labor Party promised to “revolutionise Australia’s internet infrastructure” by building a A$4.7 billion National Broadband Network. Prime Minister John Howard’s Liberal/National coalition responded in June with a A$2 billion alternative proposal.
Key, who spoke at the lauch of Turnstone’s converged business network, says broadband access is a major issue, ranking only behind the cost of housing with the public. He referred to the problems his own constituents, in the Kumeu area north of Auckland, are having getting quality service and the impact that will have on business and the economy.
Asked whether ICT spokesman Maurice Williamson, who was the face of light-handed telecommunications regulation in the late 1990s, will become Communications Minister, Key was noncommittal, saying only that he is the “spokesman at the moment” and no decisions on a future Cabinet have been made. He says the position could be more financial in its nature, in which case it might suit Bill English.
He says if he were privatising Telecom today, he would suggest National would not privatise the network.
“But we are where we are now,” he says.
Key also says the government should continue using its buying power to encourage infrastructure growth and the growth of the New Zealand technology sector.
Asked about the role of SOE Kordia Group in service delivery, he indicated the company was active in the market and that was positive.