Broadband policy has become a key negotiating point for Australia’s political parties, as they try to form a coalition government after a general election produced a hung parliament.
With no clear majority, the country’s main political parties must now turn to the Green party and three independents to form a government, which have previously backed the current Labor government’s National Broadband Network (NBN) scheme.
One independent even backs government control of operator Telstra – a key element in the government’s plans for the broadband project The Australian reported.
An opposition coalition comprising the Liberal and National parties had threatened to scrap the A$43 billion (€30.2 billion)) NBN project in favor of an A$6 billion, wireless-centric, scheme funded mostly by industry grants.
The weekend's vote ended in a hung parliament, with neither party looking like it will win the 76 seats required to form a government.
As a result, the balance of power will rest with four politicians – one from the minority Greens party, and three independent candidates.
Analyst Paul Budde said independents are likely to favor the government’s NBN plans because most are from rural areas, the National Business Review reported.
But the power-brokers are likely to force a compromise on whichever project wins out, with the Coalition being forced to raise the scope of its plan and Labor to scale back its spending on the NBN, Budde said.
Coalition leader Tony Abbott has already indicated he is willing to compromise on his anti-NBN stance from before the election, “within the broad policy parameters which we discussed during the election.”
The fate of incumbent operator Telstra meanwhile hangs in the balance. The Labor government had planned to force the formerly state-owned operator to separate its retail and wholesale divisions in exchange for A$9 billion in compensation.
While the Coalition would scrap that plan, analysts quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald said the telco would be better off under Labor’s plan.