Prime Ministerial hopeful Tony Abbott was last night unable to explain how the Coalition's broadband policy was technically possible, deferring questions on the subject because he was "no Bill Gates" and would lose a technical argument.
The Coalition policy was described as a "patchwork" by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam yesterday after it was revealed a Liberal-National Government would can the NBN and replace it with "optimised" DSL, some wireless, satellite and a backhaul network for which only $150 million was committed in the first four years of the project.
Appearing on the ABC's 7:30 Report last night, Abbott faced a well-prepared presenter Kerry O'Brien, who repeatedly sought basic information on how the Coalition would make good on its broadband promise of 12 Mbps peak speeds to most Australians.
"Just as the Prime Minister says, I say as well that I'm no Bill Gates here and I don't claim to be any kind of tech head in all of this," Abbott said.
"But we are going to have broadband running past 97 percent of households and, yes, we're not guaranteeing 100 megabits, but we are guaranteeing upwards to 100 megabits."
O'Brien grilled Abbott on his promise of "peak speeds", even explaining what they were to try and elicit a response from Abbott.
"Again, if you're gonna get me into a technical argument, I'm going to lose it, Kerry, because I'm not a tech head. But we are offering 12 and up and we think in the vast ...," Abbott began.
"Well... can you really give that guarantee when you don't seem to know what peak speed is," O'Brien responded.
"Well, Kerry, I take your point: that if you want to drag me into a technical discussion here, I'm not gonna be very successful at it," Abbott said.
O'Brien put to Abbott that, because he wasn't a "tech head, you can't explain your policy to us and how you will use [mobile] towers, how much fibre you would need and what spectrum you would use when we're told there is none to actually deliver your wireless technology."
Telco analyst Paul Budde said Abbott's lack of basic knowledge on the Coalition's own broadband policy was "unforgivable".
"While his great stumble during the interview with Kerry O'Brien on the 7.30 Report was very embarrassing, even more critical is his total lack of understanding of the transformative nature of broadband for government innovation in healthcare, education, transport and energy," Budde said.
South Australian Premier Mike Rann also tweeted: "Libs don't get it. A decent national broadband isn't about nerds. It's about better schools and hospitals."