Abbott eyes NBN cable contracts for flood relief

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Abbott eyes NBN cable contracts for flood relief

Money ripe for diversion?

Opposition leader Tony Abbott has stepped up his campaign to divert NBN funds for flood relief by citing NBN Co's $500 million outlay on fibre as money that could have been used for relief efforts.

Abbott caused a storm last week when he suggested that the money needed for Queensland's flood recovery could be found by "reprioritising" spending on projects such as on the National Broadband Network.

The suggestion has been quashed by the Government and by commentators who said that much of NBN's funding is allocated from future budgets, limiting the amount of money that could be immediately re-used.

Abbott disagreed with that assertion on Radio 6PR yesterday.

"Well, there was $1.6 billion of NBN spending that was announced just a couple of days ago. So I don't think it's right that NBN spending is all in the future," Abbott said.

That billion dollar figure was related to contracts for the supply of fibre cables awarded by NBN Co last week.

The actual amount to be immediately spent on cables was $500 million, with the remaining money to be potentially spent over a five-year period.

Abbott conceded that "much" of the NBN spending was "off budget".

"But all of the tens and tens of billions of dollars of borrowing will be government guaranteed and there's something like $8 billion that will have to eventually come out of the budget for the NBN," he said.

"I'm all in favour of broadband but we've actually got a reasonably good broadband system that's being delivered by competitive markets.

"What we don't need is a nationalised monopoly and the point I keep making, even if it might be desirable at some point in the future to do better you don't renovate the bathroom when your house has just had the roof blown off and this [the flood] is the equivalent if you like of having the roof blown off the house."

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