Thursday, 28 February 2013

NBN: Who does the Coalition represent? It's not small business anymore.

Why did Labor put "affordable, universal high-speed Internet access" on the Political Agenda?
To both create jobs and provide a long-term foundation for business remaining globally competitive.
Most of the NBN debate has focussed on Residential access, but that is only a "nice to have", a side issue, and based solely on that, the Coalition can justifiably question the usefulness of the NBN and demand their "Cost Benefit Analysis".

The real driver, improving business opportunities, effectiveness and productivity, has been lost in the debate. It's time to put that back on the agenda and have the Coalition explain who it represents.

The Coalition has two sides: the Nationals with a base in the broadband-dessert of "the Country" and the Liberals, notionally the party of Business, and once of small business.

The Productivity Commission has already reported that MFP (Multi Factor Productivity) growth in the 1990's was an all-time high 2.5%/year, but has collapsed over the last 10-15 years to zero or negative, while Labour Productivity growth has continued. This coincides with lowered investment in IT and high-speed Internet adoption constrained by price and availability.

Ask Retailers and Print Media, like Fairfax, if "The Internet Changes Everything". Their business may have taken 15 years to see significant impact, and now they have no way back. With the collapse of revenues, they can't fund the major new investment necessary to catch-up, they've lost "brand awareness" and marketshare. They seem to have no way back.

I find it an incredible irony that Turnbull-Fletcher are arguing strongly against supporting and equipment Small Business, who account for 50% of the workforce, with 21st Century tools and access.

The whole PC revolution has been moving access to compute power & networking down the ladder to smaller and smaller enterprises. 15 years ago, you could buy 10-100Mbps fibre connections from Telstra or Optus, ONLY if you were a bank, large multinational or Government body because of the considerable price.

Now that same speed is accessible to the retail market AND more importantly the low-end of business employing half our workers: micro-businesses, SOHO and SME's.

The chief driver of the NBN is improving Australia's Productivity: increasing Output with fewer Inputs or "Doing More with Less".

The whole point of the NBN is removing structural inefficiencies & constraints that will erode our global competitiveness over the next decades. The 1990's saw historic highs of productivity here, coupled with high investment in I.T. and networking, and now we've seen that crash.

The situation is not sustainable. Australia is already seen as "an expensive place to do business", we don't want it to also be "inefficient and difficult".

The Coalition, the champions of Small Business, are curiously silent on this matter. How will they be improving the effectiveness, productivity and profitability of Small Business? They have issued no policy or plans on this and only have grudgingly embraced the merest version of the NBN, not gone flat out to support all business, their apparent core constituency.

They seem to hope "The Market" to come and fix things for them, somehow, magically.
This hasn't worked in 25 years of Telecommunications deregulation.

Why hasn't small business and their Associations been vocal in their disappointment in the lack of foresight and understanding evidenced by the Coalition?

The party that Malcolm Fraser led would've responded to the Labor NBN with a program that focussed on business, especially support small businesses. It would seem to me that investing heavily in business-enabling infrastructure to improve competitiveness and productivity was both wise and exactly in-line with Liberal and National Party principles and core values.

Who does the Coalition represent now, if Labor is intent on outspending them on essential infrastructure in both their heartlands? This is the debate we need to be hearing.

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