Wednesday, 26 September 2012

NBN: Coalition reluctance to "Name the Date" (and Price)

Earlier I've wondered if the Coalition would offer any guarantee on their Broadband Promises and posed Mr Turnbull the question:
Will ASIC or the ACCC regard those promises are mere political puffery or commercial statements, misleading if false.
Whilst all Political Parties sell their Policy Platforms to the electorate during election campaigns and are legally insulated from the accountability required of businesses, Broadband Policy seems to me to now be a tricky area.

Mr Turnbull responded to my question saying it didn't apply.

NBN Co is a business selling services to the public. Not only does the ACCC especially regulate the services it supplies, it must meet all usual commercial law.

I argue that now, with the Government owning NBN Co, that promises made relating to the services it supplies are now fully or partly commercial in nature and making explicit representations about services that will be supplied by NBN Co.

With ~$35B of public money at stake, I think the Coalition has a Duty of Care under the TPA/CAA to avoid false or misleading statements about commercial services they will cause to be delivered.

They aren't, in my non-legal opinion, selling political promises to a skeptical, even cynical electorate, but advertising what may be construed by a reasonable person as real services.

At worst, if they campaign on "sooner, cheaper, more affordable", implying an FTTN solution, then reneg on either the solution or the whole NBN by saying "it's worse than we thought", then have they deliberately misled consumers?

Perhaps Mr Conroy needs to find a way to allow consultants for the Coalition to see the NBN Commercial-In-Confidence data needed to avoid that tactic.

Even if they can technically avoid commercial accountability for election promises related to Broadband, they have a moral duty to live up their self-portrayal as "Good Economic Managers".
That can only be enforced by electors at the ballot box, and as we've seen by the "Ju-liar" campaign, the backlash can be surprisingly strong.

Anyone know how to get an opinion on this from the ACCC and/or ASIC?
It'd be a wonderful precedent...

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