Analysis: The political flavours of the NBN rollout

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Analysis: The political flavours of the NBN rollout

If you want ultra-fast broadband, does it pay to be a swinging voter?

When Telstra rolled out the trial centres in the late '90s for its Big Pond cable internet service - the first home and small-business-grade broadband in Australia - engineers joked that exchanges were chosen based on their proximity to where the telco's senior executives lived.

For the next phase of Australia's broadband future, Federal Communications MInister Senator Stephen Conroy said that technical issues dictated areas to be connected first to the National Broadband Network. "The engineers rule my life on this. And I have a matrix of issues that they use to determine where we go."

In awarding rollout locations for the second tranche of the NBN, NBN Co tended to favour areas in safe ALP seats, which received six of the 14 slots compared to just two for safe conservative seats - the regional primary industry powerhouse seats of O'Connor (Geraldton) in WA and Groom (Toowoomba) in Queensland.

The balance of those areas awarded starter status were marginal seats that the Australian Electoral Commission said last month, based on their performance at the 2007 federal poll, could swing either way at the next election: Mandurah (Brand, WA); Casuarina (Solomon, NT); South Morang (McEwen, Vic); Victoria Park (Swan, WA); Riverstone (Greenway, NSW) and Coffs Harbour (Cowper, NSW).

Labor MPs whose constituents will first benefit from the NBN's promised high speeds were Catherine King (Ballarat, Victoria); Arch Bevis (Brisbane, Qld); Bernie Ripoll (Oxley, Qld); Tony Zappia (Makin, SA); Sports Minister Kate Elllis (Adelaide, SA); Gary Gray (Brand, WA); Damian Hale (Solomon, NT) and retiring party stalwart Bob McMullan (Fraser, ACT).

Conservatives in marginal seats under pressure following the handouts were Liberals Fran Bailey (McEwen, Vic); Steve Irons (Swan, WA) and NSW MPs Louise Markus (Greenway) and the Nationals' Luke Hartsuyker (Cowper).

The ABC considered four of the seats were "key" in the last poll; the next must be held before April although Labor PM Julia Gillard has indicated it would be called this year.

Melbourne's and Sydney's urban centres - well served by ADSL, high-speed wireless and cable internet - missed out in favour of inner-city areas Brisbane, Adelaide and Victoria Park in WA.

And although 11 of the 14 MPs whose electorates will benefit have websites that their constituents will be able to access lickety-split, it may be time for NSW National Luke Hartsuyker (Cowper), SA and WA Labor members Tony Zappia (Makin) and Gary Gray (Brand) to learn HTML or call a web designer because they are yet to stake their claim online.

NBN stage 1: What's a safe seat worth?

  • Labor (fairly) safe (6): Bacchus Marsh (Ballarat/Vic); Brisbane (Brisbane/Qld); Springfield Lakes (Oxley/Qld); Modbury (Makin/Qld); Prospect (Adelaide/SA); Gungahlin (Fraser/ACT)
  • Labor marginal (2): Mandurah (Brand/WA); Casuarina (Solomon/NT)
  • LP/NP (fairly) safe (2): Geraldton (O'Connor/WA); Toowoomba (Groom/Qld)
  • LP/NP marginal (4): South Morang (McEwen/Vic); Victoria Park (Swan/WA); Riverstone (Greenway/NSW); Coffs Harbour (Cowper/NSW)
    source: Australian Electoral Commission, National Seat Status (June, 2010)

Who gets the NBN first?











South Australia



Western Australia




Northern Territory



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