Opposition leader Tony Abbott says he has never discussed the National Broadband Network with media proprietor Rupert Murdoch, after prime minister Kevin Rudd challenged him to reveal any conversation.
Rudd on Wednesday night again questioned whether the strong attacks on his government in the Murdoch papers were related to the NBN representing a commercial threat to Foxtel, in which News Corp Australia and Telstra each have a half share.
“I’ve only just been looking back on the files today and discovered that in fact Mr Abbott’s NBN policy was launched at the Fox studios here in Sydney,” he said.
“‘I would like to hear some answers as to what discussions Mr Abbott may have had with Mr Murdoch on the future of Australia’s National Broadband Network.”
Abbott said today: “I do from time to time talk to Rupert Murdoch. Have I ever spoken to Rupert Murdoch about the NBN? No I haven’t.”
Abbott said his discussions with Murdoch were “so secret that I wrote about it in my spectator diary a year ago”.
“Kevin Rudd went to New York to get career counselling from Rupert Murdoch after he lost the leadership in 2010,” he added.
Abbott said Rudd’s sensitivity about Murdoch was a further example of “just how thin-skinned he is becoming.”
Telstra has also weighed into the debate, with chief executive David Thodey saying the NBN would help Foxtel.
“The critical thing for Foxtel is to get access to more homes to be able to sell the Foxtel service. Anything that helps us do that is good news and so the NBN, in that sense, is helpful.”
Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said he had not discussed the Coalition’s “specific policy” with Murdoch.
“But I can tell you that Murdoch’s views are nothing special,” Turnbull said. Murdoch was not saying anything that just about every business person in Australia was not saying. The business community including Murdoch thought the government’s NBN was too expensive and taking too long to roll out, he said.