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43 ways to spend the National Broadband Network’s $43 billion

November 2nd, 2010 · Greg Atkinson · 18 Comments

I have been a vocal critic of the National Broadband Network for a long time and was talking about what a mess it would be way before the mainstream media woke up.  So to further illustrate my point I have put together a list of  areas or ways where I believe the taxpayers $43 billion could be better spent and deliver better outcomes for the Australian people.

The list is arranged in no particular order, nor am I  suggesting that the $43 billion should be split evenly across each area. The purpose of the list is to simply highlight that there are plenty of other areas where the Government could be spending money over say the next 1o years rather than directing national resources towards what essentially should be a private sector led and funded project.

For those readers new to this blog who think  I may have just recently jumped on the National Broadband Network bashing bandwagon,  please read my April 2009 blast from the past:  The National Broadband Network: from debacle to disaster. You may also notice not a lot has changed since I wrote that blog, for example there is still no clear business plan for the NBN!

So without further ado, here is the list.

1.  Aged Care.

With any luck, most of us will live to a ripe old age and so only a fool would not want to see a significant investment made in the area of aged care.  This is one area where the federal government should be getting more involved and we should be spending much more to ensure affordable care for the aged is available and that specialist facilities at hospitals are set up to deal with health problems experienced by the elderly.

2.  The Homeless.

The economy is enjoying the delights of  a mining boom and  yet people still sleep on the streets.  Need I say more?

3.  Mental Illness.

We hear a lot about the problems faced by people on so called “Struggle Street”, but the mentally ill are seldom heard from. They often suffer in silence and we should be directing more resources towards helping them and their families.

4.  The Disabled.

This is another disadvantaged group within our society and again I simply don’t think we are doing enough to support them or their families.

5.  Medical Research.

Not having a broadband won’t kill you, but there are plenty of diseases and ailments around that will.  Doesn’t it makes sense to spend as much as we can on trying to find cures and effective treatments for the things at ail us?

6.  High Speed Rail.

How hard can it be to get implement high speed rail in Australia?  Let’s just get it done!

7.  Nuclear Power.

I am sure we can find space somewhere in this vast land to kick-off a nuclear power industry with an initial 4th generation reactor. Wouldn’t it be nice for the nation to move into the 21st century? Vietnam plans to have a new generation reactor ready by about Australia?

8.  Regional Hubs.

Instead of cramming more people into the major cities why don’t we try setting up some true regional hubs?  We could then connect these hubs to the major cities via high speed rail links.  To encourage companies to relocate there we need to simply give them generous tax breaks for a while..that seems to work well for Singapore.

9.  Border Security.

We might as well use the benefit of being an island nation as much as we can so it makes sense to me to make sure we keep our borders secure.

10.  Public Transport.

Instead of simply building more toll roads in the cities let’s pump some serious money into public transport and think about what we will need 20+ years from now.  How about a true citywide subway loop line for each major city for example?

11.  Internal Migration Programme.

Perhaps incentives to encourage people from the cities to move to regional areas would take the burden of population growth from the mainland capitals a little? (…and make housing in the big cities move affordable?)

12.  Underground Power Mains Cabling.

Not only are overhead power cables unsightly but they also result in a lot of energy being lost.  If we spend money on getting mains power cables underground we will reduce power transmission losses and make our cities nicer as well.

13.  Water Infrastructure.

We can save water by fixing leaks and re-using water for industrial use as opposed to building costly new desalination plants.  All new buildings should be fitted with rainwater tanks and water saving technology which should be generously, and consistently, subsidised by the government at a national level.

14.  University Based Research.

If we want to be the clever country then we need to direct funds toward research labs at universities.  It’s that simple.

15.  Quality Education.

Hard to define I know, but we could start with paying well qualified teachers  more and making the profession more attractive.

16.  Space Industry.

We have plenty of land area and space above our heads,  so let’s venture into the heavens and build some satellites and rockets etc. of our own.

17.  Clean Air Initiatives.

Nobody gains from breathing in noxious fumes so why not initiate a broader range of programmes to improve air quality?

18.  Parliamentary Reforms.

Let’s reduce the number of Federal and State politicians we have and try going for quality over quantity.  Some money spent pushing through reforms in this area would benefit the nation over the longer term I reckon.

19.  Child Protection.

Protecting our children should be a national priority.  We should direct all the resources needed to make sure we are doing the best we can to protect children from abuse.

20.  Hi-Tech Cluster.

For years people have been talking about setting up the Australian equivalent of Silicon Valley and not much has happened.  So this is one area where the federal government could come in and give things a push forward.

21.  Bush Fire Safety.

How many times will people die during major bush fires before we spend the money needed to significantly improve bush fire safety?  How about we build more fire safety zones and fire shelters for example?

22.  Tourism.

Instead of waving farewell to Australian’s heading overseas for holidays, why don’t we help develop our own tourism industry more and pay attention to the reasons why international tourists numbers have been falling.

23.  Environmental Protection.

A broad area I know, but I am sure we could do more to protect the environment.

24.  Renewable/Green Energy Research.

We are quickly falling behind other nations when it comes to developing renewable energy technologies and this problem will only become more acute if we don’t give Australian companies some serious tax breaks so they will spend more in this area.

25.  Renewable/Green Energy Projects.

There is plenty more to be done in this area and if we serious about heading down the renewable energy path we need to be spending more.

26.  Marine Research.

Our nation is surrounded by oceans and yet we really don’t know much about them. Let’s get out there and learn more.

27.  Roads and Highways.

Better roads and highways can save lives, so why haven’t we fixed all the known deadly sections on major highways and roads yet?

28.  Preventative Healthcare.

Many people end up needing healthcare because of lifestyle related illnesses such as those associated with obesity. So doesn’t it makes sense to spend a little more to try and get people to live healthier lives?

29.  Rural Land Care.

Arable land is a precious resource , we need to look after it and could fund some extra Landcare projects.

30.  Recycling.

Waste not, want not – the saying goes.  But since we seem unable to curb our wasteful ways we can do the next best thing and provide incentives so that more of our rubbish is recycled. Maybe we even need government run recycling facilities?

31.  A New International Airport in Sydney.

For as long as I can remember, governments at all levels and of all flavours have been talking about the need for another airport for Sydney.  There have been studies, plans, committees etc and nothing much has happened.  Time to get moving on this one I think.

32.  Cycle-ways and associated infrastructure.

We have great weather in Australia and yet not many people ride bicycles to work often due to the lack of dedicated paths for bicycles.  If we spent money here we would help reduce airborne pollution, road congestion and some people wound end up little healthier as well.

33.  Sovereign Wealth Fund.

How about we tuck some money away for a rainy day and set up a Sovereign Wealth Fund that will benefit all Australians in the future and keep politicians away from some of our cash!

34.  Flood Prevention.

Surely we must be able to protect rural towns more from flooding via such means as improving flood levees?

35.  Disaster Planning.

Maybe it is just me, but Australia in general does not seem that prepared to deal with large scale natural disasters.  Have we even contemplated for example what we would do if a Tsunami was heading Down Under?

36.  Self Funded Retirees.

Let’s provide some extra incentives for people to save for their retirement instead of penalising them for doing so.

37.  Veteran’s Benefits and Compensation.

We don’t have a great track record when it comes to looking after wounded and disabled military veterans, so lets put aside some funds and make sure they are looked after.

38.  Support for Charities.

I am sure the major charities could do a lot with some extra funding.  If the government needs to spend, why not help those truly in need a little more?

39.  Regional Services.

If we want to encourage regional growth then we need to take some losses and keep services alive in small towns.  It may not always be cost effective to do, but do we really want everyone living in the big cities?

40.  Build a New World Class Regional University.

Maybe we need more than one?  Maybe a second ANU somewhere?

41.  Establish a APAC Regional Financial Hub.

Well, this idea might be sunk already if the Singapore Exchange (SGX) ends up consuming the Australia Securities Exchange (ASX).  If that happens it should teach us what happens to countries that don’t have any long term plans.

42.  Regional Broadband.

I never said that regional areas across Australia shouldn’t have broadband, so I have no problem with the government helping to get a broadband solution out into regional and rural areas.  Maybe we could dust off the OPEL plan?

and finally:

43.   The Ashes.

We should never, ever, lose the Ashes to the English.  If needed we should secretly create a world beating cricket team made up of cyborgs.


So there you have it,  my imperfect list.  Please feel free to make suggestions or share your views. Maybe you think the NBN is a more worthy cause than those I have listed above?  Or maybe, when we really think about it, there are other more important issues that the government should be focused on, and spending our money on.

18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Biker // Nov 3, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Eight of the suggestions are superior to NBN, IMVBO:
    8, 12, 13, 24, 25, 30, 32 and 36.

    Having said that, internet speeds here are inferior to those in a dozen countries we’ve visited. Streaming video here is still very much a stop-start affair.

  • 2 Byron // Nov 3, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Interesting list.

    Several things mentioned in the list require high-speed internet, such as education and research to collaborate with peers and experts across the world.
    Will the NBN enable Australia to engage in businesses and research around the world, without the need to travel as frequently and as costly as the past. Will this help reduce CO2 emissions by encouraging businesses to communicate via the network? Could helps reduce greenhouse emissions, and the list mentions protecting the environment.

    Will teachers and doctors be able to seek the services of experts and peers from all around the world? Would a “World Class Regional University”, “Hi Tech Cluster” or “APAC Regional Financial Hub” need a high-speed network?

    A High-speed network can provide people with disabilities great accessibility to the rest of the world, and the possibility of work and a social life.

    Space industry? I’m guessing that one was a joke too as with self funded retirees? The term self funded infers that they can afford to retire without government assistance.

    There are many things that the government can spend money on and if we were only prepared to pay more tax, this list could become possible. However, we live in a country where we believe we are entitled to the best of all services, yet when it comes to paying tax, we are adamant that we all pay too much.

    The NBN will cover many areas that this list mentions with many benefits. Which one item on the list could provide such support to so many other areas listed if the 43b was to be spent entirely on that?

  • 3 Greg Atkinson // Nov 3, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Byron thanks for the comment. Video conferencing is available today without the NBN but Australia still managed to send one of the largest delegations to Copenhagen to attend the climate change talk fest. In addition you can do everything you mentioned using 20 Mpbs which is available today in Australia.

    Space joke actually. Probably it is a joke in Australia, but other more ‘advanced’ nations are investing heavily in this area.

    Yes research hubs etc would need a higher speed broadband link I agree, but this does not mean we need to pay for every house to be connected at that rate. You are confusing the NBN and FTTH with the general issue of broadband.

    As I have said many, many times – broadband is good, the problem is the NBN and the way the government is handling the issue.

  • 4 Biker Pete // Nov 4, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    “I’m guessing that one was a joke too as with self funded retirees? ”

    Probably. We do need to encourage every Australian citizen to spend all income during their 41 (average) years working, so that they can live on welfare for the next 41. By spending everything, they’re stimulating the retail economy and employment; and assisting Australia.

    The ever-increasing population of grateful younger people can then reward them for having done so, by supporting them for three or four decades.

    Sound pretty workable to me!~ 😉

  • 5 Greg Atkinson // Nov 4, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    Biker I would like to see some serious money go into regional hubs and I am a big fan of helping people help themselves, i.e self funded retirees. Yes Australia needs broadband, but let the private sector do more of the heavy lifting I reckon.

  • 6 Biker // Nov 4, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    “I would like to see some serious money go into regional hubs…”

    Same here. Still waiting for Colin Barnett to implement his ‘second capital’ concept in WA. Sounded great when reported, but we really can’t see that anything at all has happened.

    We’re dirty on Telstra, who advised us we were outside broadband range. Their competition, iinet, quickly proved them wrong; but speeds aren’t impressive. My only complaint about the ‘private enterprise’ idea is that the big players only go where it really pays. People like us suffer from the old ‘cost:benefit’ analysis.
    If it’s going to cost them a few dollars extra to provide service, they’re just not interested. It’s a very short-term gain, because those who leave _never_ come back… .

  • 7 Greg Atkinson // Nov 15, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Looks like even the OECD reckons the NBN is too expensive and poorly planned: Blueprint exposes flaws in Stephen Conroy’s internet plan

  • 8 N.McQueen // Nov 15, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    43 billion NBN for say 5 million households across the country, equals $8500 per house….
    I for one would rather have a 2.5KW Photovoltaic Power source on my roof for roughly the same money..why should Government decide that I need faster internet rather than free power ?????
    CHOICE would be nice.!!!

  • 9 Ned S // Nov 15, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Yes, put like that it certainly sounds like a very serious political whank that our pollies are hoping their very stupid voters will embrace as yet one more cost of living here that they can charge us ongoing and ever increasing fees on to support themselves and their whole beauracratic structure N McQueen?

  • 10 Greg Atkinson // Jan 15, 2011 at 8:56 am

    I guess the above list make not look so silly now, especially number 34: Flood Prevention.

    The public needs to appreciate that there are more important areas that need government attention with fund being diverted into what should be a private sector enterprise.

  • 11 Biker // Jan 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    N.McQ: “I for one would rather have a 2.5KW Photovoltaic Power source on my roof for roughly the same money…”

    We’re installing our sixth system in a fortnight, N. McQ.
    I’ve also initiated a system nearly three times that size on a government building.

    To our amusement, a friend recently suggested we’re basically ‘leeches’ using government grants to put SES on rentals. We’re using her taxes to provide tenants with free power. She’s recovering from the sharemarket meltdown which took a large hit on her Super, so we’re empathetic and consoling… . 😀

    I’d do _all_ our rentals, but the missus argues that those with solar HWSs are already reaping the benefits. Despite that, I’m continuing to apply for grants, even on west-facing roofs, where there’s only 85% efficiency.

    Yes, Flood Prevention would probably be your best inclusion on The List, Greg. Top Marks for Nostradamusician vision… . 😉

  • 12 Senator13 // Jan 16, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Good prediction on that one, Greg.

    I wonder how many others on the list will go unnoticed/untouched while Government pushes ahead with the NBN?

  • 13 Mr Editor // Aug 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    I only just stumbled across this list now. I must say it is fascinating — and I do agree to the fact that the NBN is a poor way to invest taxpayers’ money.

  • 14 Greg Atkinson // Feb 28, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Mr Ed if we were swimming in cash then maybe the NBN would be a good idea…but even then it would raise some concerns with me in terms of setting up a government monopoly to effectively force the private sector fall into line.

  • 15 Greg Atkinson // Apr 8, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Up to $44.1 billion best. See: Government urged to release ‘true cost of NBN’ (Source Courier Mail)

    As I suggested years ago..the NBN will be a costly debacle planned by twits and paid for by taxpayers

  • 16 Stillgotshoeson // Apr 8, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    I heard a figure of $90 billion touted on the radio as the true cost of the NBN today.

  • 17 Greg Atkinson // Apr 8, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Yes that figure is mentioned in the article. I think we can safely say it will be closer to $90 billion than the estimates Rudd & Conroy came up with.

    Perhaps their pensions should be linked to the some NBN related KPI’s? What could they be afraid of….besides reality? 😉

  • 18 Biker // Apr 10, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Difficult to ‘safely say’ anything, perhaps?

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