Conroy turns the attack to Hockey

Senator Stephen Conroy continues to stand behind his position the NBN is an asset and not a budgetary expense

Senator Stephen Conroy has slammed Joe Hockey for asserting the NBN should be treated as a budgetary cost.

Conroy grouped shadow treasurer Joe Hockey, shadow minister for communications and broadband, Malcolm Turnbull, and opposition leader, Tony Abbott, together for their “economic illiteracy” about the National Broadband Network (NBN).

"The Coalition has won the trifecta for economic illiteracy in their claims that the National Broadband Network should be treated as spending in the budget," Conroy said, minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy.

"In his National Press Club Speech, Mr Hockey has once again shown he is unfit to be in charge of the nation's finances.”

In his speech to the National Press Club, Hockey said government debt continues to rise due to spending on the NBN and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) being funded through borrowings.

“Now, the treasurer says this is normal accounting, but the $50 billion NBN and the $10 billion CEFC are not normal. Their size and asset quality are not on a par with Qantas floated for $2 billion, Commonwealth Bank floated for $8 billion or Medibank Private valued at around $4 billion. Nor is their asset quality the same,” Hockey said.

“One of my earliest administrative tasks to improve public finances will be to meet with senior public servants to identify the real commercial value of the NBN and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and their treatment in the budget.”

However, Conroy has continued to assert the NBN is an asset which will generate income and therefore should not be included in the budget.

"It is classified by international accounting standards as an equity investment rather than a budget expense,” Conroy said.

"This is consistent with long-standing budget treatment applied by this and previous Australian governments. Instead of wilfully misleading the public, the Coalition should support Labor's NBN, which will provide fast, reliable, and affordable broadband to all Australians, regardless of where they live."

Conroy further attacked Hockey by questioning his ability to manage accounts.

"Mr Hockey not only masterminded the Coalition's pre-election costings debacle – where the firm hired by the Coalition to audit its election promises was later fined and reprimanded for unprofessional practices – but now he wants to ignore international accounting standards,” Conroy said.

Conroy also recently attacked Turnbull, calling him “either lazy, financially illiterate, or both”.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

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