”If infrastructure is built, we will ensure we make the best use of it.” He ruled out removing cables that are being installed around the country by the government-owned NBN Co. ”Clearly, we would not be tearing anything up,” he said at a banking conference. After being appointed to ”demolish” the Gillard government’s planned network, Mr Turnbull yesterday told a business audience in Sydney the Coalition would take a ”hard-headed” look at the project if elected. The opposition’s communications spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull, has conceded the Coalition would not ”tear up” what had already been built of the national broadband network if it won the next federal election, saying it would put any infrastructure to good use.
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The opposition has so far focused on attacking the cost of the network and calling for a cost-benefit analysis, but it is understood some senior Liberals see developing a clearer policy on how they would support wider access to broadband as a high priority. NBN Co is expected to provide fresh details soon on how the government’s promise to prioritise rural areas will affect the costs and timetable of the installation. The executive chairman of NBN Co, Mike Quigley, will also speak today in Melbourne, making his first public comments since the election campaign. In a possible clue into the opposition’s thinking, Mr Turnbull explored a ”structural separation” of Telstra – of its wholesale and retail arms – without building a whole new broadband network. Mr Turnbull is expected to provide further details on his thinking on competition in the sector in a speech in Melbourne today. However, he did not endorse this approach. Mr Turnbull’s concession reflects pressures on the Coalition to explain where it stands on broadband. Paul Budde, a telecommunications consultant who supports the network, said Mr Turnbull’s comments made sense because the public was growing tired of the Coalition’s ”black-and-white” attacks on the network. So far, the network has been introduced to test sites in Tasmania and work has also begun in mainly rural areas.