Malcolm Turnbull, who is expected to be appointed communications minister next week, has given his thumbs down to an online petition asking the incoming government to keep the fibre-to-the-home broadband model of the previous government.
The petition was started by 20-year-old student Nick Paine on change.org shortly after Saturday’s election. It calls on the Liberal Party to ‘‘reconsider your plan for a fibre-to-the-node NBN in favour of a superior fibre-to-the-home NBN.’’
It has now surpassed 200,000 signatures, but Mr Turnbull on Thursday criticised the push for fibre as ideology.
"Last Saturday there was a general election at which the NBN was one of the most prominent issues.... The promoters of this petition apparently believe that we should ignore the lengthy public debate on the NBN that preceded the election and also ignore the election result. We should within days of the election walk away from one of our most well debated, well understood and prominent policies. Democracy? I don't think so," Mr Turnbull wrote on his blog as he faced a social media backlash.
"For those who don't have time to read our policy (but time to sign an online petition) there are a few important points to bear in mind. We do not regard technology as an ideological issue. We are technologically agnostic."
Mr Turnbull then went on to address the other points including lack of transparency form NBN Co and a lack of cost-benefit analysis by the previous government."
He again posted a link to the full Coalition policy on the NBN.
On Wednesday Mr Paine said the national broadband network was ‘‘a big passion’’ of his and that he believed the node network proposed by the Coalition while in opposition did not reflect community support and would need a costly upgrade within a few years.
‘‘I think a lot of people who have shown their support so far are passionate about the project. The whole point of having an NBN is to future-proof it for generations to come,’’ Mr Paine told Fairfax Media.
A spokesman for Turnbull said earlier in the week a cost-benefit analysis would show which network structure was most appropriate.
‘‘We will conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis of this project so that the general public will finally be able to assess what this project is really going to cost in terms of time and dollars, and the relative trade-offs of differing approaches to delivering better broadband,’’ the spokesman said.
“It comes as little surprise that people around Australia are waiting for better broadband – after six years of Labor Government there are still two million households whose Internet is so poor they can’t even access a YouTube video.’’
Earlier this year an Age/Nielsen poll of 1400 Australians found 63 per cent of respondents who had heard about the Labor government’s NBN supported the proposal, while only 41 per cent backed the Coalition’s alternative.
Communications director for change.org, a US-based social enterprise, said the NBN petition had passed 120,000 signatures making it the most-signed petition on change.org in Australia. It has surpassed a petition signed by 116,280 people to convince major sponsors to stop advertising on Alan Jones’ radio show. It has now passed
‘‘We have very strict protocols in place to make sure that people can only sign it once,’’ spokesman Tony Robertson said.
Online petitions could influence debate or make changes if they could demonstrate a ‘‘massive groundswell of opinion,’’ he added.
So far its online petitions claim to have successfully pressured the Australian War Memorial to honour peace keepers killed on duty, pressure a taxi company to pull advertisements that exploited women’s vulnerability, and to get the Royal Humane Society to revoke a bushfire bravery award for a man convicted of domestic violence.