Abbott was unmovable on 'shocker' NBN policy: Oakeshott

Abbott was unmovable on 'shocker' NBN policy: Oakeshott

Summary: Then-opposition leader Tony Abbott was unwilling to budge on the Coalition's 2010 broadband policy during minority government negotiations, according to former Independent MP Rob Oakeshott


Then opposition leader Tony Abbott told former Independent MP Rob Oakeshott that the Coalition's 2010 policy to dismantle the National Broadband Network (NBN) was "non-negotiable", according to Oakeshott.

(Image: Allen & Unwin)

At the 2010 election, the Coalition opposition had an AU$6 billion policy that would have seen Labor's fibre to the premises policy scrapped in favour of fibre backhaul, wireless, and ADSL optimisation.

In order to form government after the election, both Abbott and former Prime Minister Julia Gillard courted Oakeshott and fellow rural independent MP Tony Windsor over 17 days after the election, with Gillard ultimately winning over the two MPs and forming a minority government until September 2013.

At the time, Windsor said the NBN was a major factor in the decision-making process, saying "do it once, do it right, do it with fibre", and in his autobiography, The Independent Member for Lyne, Oakeshott said too that the NBN was a deal-breaker for him.

"Along with local infrastructure, education, health, and Indigenous policies, I stood for parliament on an ETS [emissions trading scheme] and the NBN," he said.

"They were part of my platform."

Oakeshott labelled the Coalition's 2010 policy as "a shocker, totally without merit".

When negotiating with Abbott over forming government, the former MP admitted he knew at this point he would "have a problem with Tony Abbott".

"We again get stuck on climate change and the NBN," Oakeshott said between days three and five.

"[Abbott] refuses to budge on both. I am again left feeling frustrated and unimpressed."

By the final day, on day 17, Abbott had agreed to match everything Labor was offering at the time, except the ETS and the NBN, and on that day, Oakeshott decided to side with Labor.

The Independent MP continued to focus on the NBN during his time in the Parliament between 2010 and 2013, chairing the joint parliamentary committee on the NBN. Oakeshott said he compromised on a Bill that would have allowed the Auditor-General oversight over NBN Co spending, which Labor opposed.

He said chairing the committee with strong personalities including Turnbull and Labor Senator Doug Cameron "took some managing", but said the Coalition were unable to prod a single hole into evidence given at the committee hearings by NBN Co executives.

"I found myself constantly playing traffic cop, and insisting on common courtesy between members," he said.

At the 2013 election, the Coalition changed its NBN policy to become a majority fibre-to-the-node network and using the existing cable networks in addition to fibre to the premises in some places. Despite the Coalition giving some ground from the party's 2010 position, Oakeshott said Labor should have gone harder on the Coalition's NBN policy in the 2013 election.

"Yet oddly, Labor allowed Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott to neutralise the topic despite holding all the policy cards," he said.

"For Stephen Conroy — a big Chelsea fan — the 2013 election campaign was the policy equivalent of Chelsea being satisfied with a 0-0 draw against a Third Division side with only 10 players."

Conroy was not the communications minister at the time of the election, with Anthony Albanese being elevated to the position after former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's return to the Labor leadership in June 2013.

The Coalition's policy has the "potential to return millions and millions of dollars in future profits" to News Limited and Telstra through Foxtel, Oakeshott said.

"As much as I have personal regard for Malcolm Turnbull, I think his telecommunications policy is wholly owned by Telstra and News Limited. It does nothing for consumers, and is a massive win for a couple of corporate boards."

But Oakeshott admits that Australians voted for the Coalition's alternative NBN policy.

"In 2010, two rural Independents called for Australia to do it once, do it right, and do it with fibre. In 2013, Australia responded. It chose to do it twice, do it wrong, and do it with a mix of technology."

Rob Oakeshott's autobiography, The Independent Member for Lyne, is out this Wednesday, RRP AU$35 through Allen & Unwin.

Topics: NBN, Government, Government AU, Australia


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • No surprise..Josh

    Abbott doesn't have a clue, He's so dumb he can't tell the wood from the trees.

    MT isn't much better. To add insult to injury for the NBN, MT is all about big business & to hell with the needs of the country. His mind set is all about dollars, never mind the massive benefits a FTTP NBN would provide for decades.

    No man in his right mind would choose to use a 100 year old technology over a 21st Century FTTP solution.

    Blind Freddy knows the difference & would choose a FTTP for NBN with all the benefits it would provide. !
    • and yet...

      Many countries including Britain and the US are doing big VDSL rollouts instead of FTTP because it is cheaper and quicker and gets people up to higher speeds now.

      FTTP definitely makes sense in green fields sites but for the rest - it really does come down to - do it now with FTTP and have it underutilized for years to come or do it now with VDSL and then ramp it up to full FTTP down the track as the copper needs replacing or as a gradual rollout to get the higher speeds.

      It really isn't one size fits all, plus large chunks of regional areas miss out completely anyway. And yes Google is doing FTTP rollouts in a couple of places but even they admit there is no use for it currently or that they can foresee beyond just having it there - do you really need to stream 100+ YouTube videos at once when VDSL will do more than a couple at once without breaking a sweat?
      • But

        They are doing that with their own well maintained, completely paid for Copper, extending the life of that assett.
        NBN will have to lease that copper and HFC or buy it, the only people buying copper cable are doing so for scrap - worth far more at spot copper price.
        Plus it will be far higher maintenance and operational cost.
        Does NBN take on the complete section of Telstra with all the overheads to maintain and repair the copper and HFC, or contract Telstra to maintain and operate and repair with a very substantial markup.

        Sorry mate you are comparing apples with potatoes
        Abel Adamski
      • Not necessarily so

        You do realise AT&T is going Fibre, Verizon now has 18Mill FTTP customers and still rolling out fibre.
        Yes there are some countries with monopoly infrastructure doing VDSL (That includes the US).
        Our customers and competitors are going full fibre
        Abel Adamski
      • Learning is a rewarding experience
        Abel Adamski
      • No, some of them are not.

        Britain already has FTTN, and has started rolling out FTTP instead. They have realized that FTTP is 21st century infrastructure, which is a lot more than Turnbull and Abbott have. Another thing is that the situations in Britain and here are very different. Australia is large, and Britain is small. Population and housing density here is very low, in Britain they are much higher. Another example the Turnbull trotted out was New Zealand and their FTTN. Well guess what, they have realized what a blunder that was, and have started rolling out FTTP. By going for the Multi Technology Mix (MTM) as it has been called by Malcolm Turnbull, the LNP are ensuring that Australia will continue to have a Digital Divide, which people have been jumping up and down about since the early 90's. Regarding the MTM, people like myself, who have been and still are members of the Technical Community, have renamed the MTM to "Malcolm Turnbull's Mess" because from a Technology viewpoint, that is exactly what it is.

        Another thing that is going against FTTN is that the companies that produce the Node boxes, have ceased production of them, because there is very little or almost no demand for them anymore. They have moved onto producing boxes for Optical Fibre distribution instead. So Turnbull has suggested using Mini-nodes, without battery power backup. No prizes for guessing what will happen if there is a blackout, or flooding in low lying areas. Every home or business that is connected through the affected nodes will have no Internet or phone services. They better hope that they can connect using a mobile phone, because if they can't, they are without any viable form of communication. There are many more things that I could bring up against the MTM, and/or FTTN when compared to the real NBN, with FTTP. Optical Fibre is the Technology of the 21st century, where Copper is the now obsolete technology of the 20th century.
        • my preference

          Is actually for the NZ model - they were smart enough to just offer up money to the existing telcos based on meeting certain roll out targets.

          If the government here had just done the same then iinet, tpg, dodo, Optus, Telstra and I'm sure a couple of other 2nd tier players would have all jumped on it and got a rollout going quick as - because at the end of the day what private corporation doesn't like free money.

          Beyond that the NBN was a stupid idea (as was pretty much everything labor came up with - either the idea or the implementation was just plain dumb). We already had one monopoly later sold off which we then spent the next 20 years trying to regulate etc - so labors answer - lets create Telstra MKii. Competition in telecoms down to the infrastructure layer is always going to provide better results then everyone starting from the same price point. So yes I prefer the NZ model.

          As for do we need it? Mostly in rural and areas that aren't covered by HFC, but in HFC areas and in apartment buildings built post about 2005 it's a waste because those people can already get 100mb connections today, so concentrate on the areas that can't and come back to upgrade those areas later. (Oh and yes there are a number of people I know in both areas and not one of them complains about connectivity or speeds )
          • Well...

            Thanks for that Malcolm...
          • Wow

            You really haven't been doing ANY research before coming up with that have you? Like btone says. Great opinion Malcolm!
      • And Now...

        "Many countries including Britain and the US were doing big VDSL rollouts instead of FTTP because it was cheaper and quicker and got people up to higher speeds then" (& they owned the networks).

        Now they're all rolling out fibre but we're still 10 years behind & going to spend over $41Billion playing catchup on outdated technology that will likely need replacing with fibre before it's even completed to keep up with demand.
        It's not all about downloading Utube. Heard of the Cloud yet or uploads?
  • Not Dumb, Just Corrupt.

    All part of a deal with Uncle Rupert to protect his Foxtel profits. Demolish NBN & get 3 years of anti-Labor, pro-LNP propaganda from all my media outlets.
    • Too true

      Donations can take many forms, not necessarily cash.
      Abel Adamski
  • Disregard common sense

    In fairness to the coalition I can see there reasoning for wanting FttN (supposed cost savings, short term). And I think on some levels this is what we want from a government, we want them to try and keep the budget in check. Please don't hate on me yet though.
    It is clear that the coalition (or at least, backers of FttN) have never ever had any involvement in installing cables of any sort. As a communications technician who has done his fair share of cabling, I know the old adage amongst cablers is pull in more than is required/do it once. Because it is ALWAYS easier to pull cables the first time around and reduces labour times. I am uncertain how FttN can be labeled cheaper than FttP because the upgrade to FttP is inevitable and when that day comes NBN Co will again have to fork out for labour costs. Has anyone of the coalition considered this or is that too far in the future for them to think about?
    Anyway rant over. I do think however we (the public) should continue to push the government to "Do it once, do it right, do it with fibre" otherwise it seems like a complete waste of our tax paying dollars. Also with FttP already rolling out in places, can anyone say fragmentation problem. And what about the competitive edge a business with FttP will have over one using FttN, is that fair?
  • Ideology is the issue

    That is the problem with the current government. I have no issue with the idea of cutting spending etc, however the complete disregard of the NBN and this idea that it is not important is what turned a lot of voters off. They didn't really vote for the coalition NBN, its just the coalition NBN was better than their 2010 policy and was of less concern to the average voter. The issue is within a decade it will be a big issue at an election, because the current lack of plan isn't going to cut it.

    Most people would have no real issues if FTTN was used to speed up the roll out especially via FTTB for example, to get more customers on the NBN to generate revenue to help fund FTTP and the eventual upgrade to FTTP where needed. But there was no plan to do this by anyone.

    If the reason anyway is against the FTTP NBN is because they think its just so people can download movies then I think they probably should not be involved in the argument at all because they have no idea about what a telecommunications network is used for. In the USA where speeds are generally better there is a lot more competition in producing media, technology etc. Something the coalition ideologically would love, except to get there we'd have to give people a better connection and they ideologically oppose that, just look at the budget. Talk to anyone who wants to freelance from their home and its difficult with todays infrastructure. Moving into an office is expensive and less family friendly.

    Anyway I can only hope the current plan doesn't progress far and we get labor back in to build the NBN. then by 2019 it should be obvious to voters that we need the FTTP NBN to compete with Asia and the world, so that even the coalition will not put their ideological beliefs ahead of whats best for the country.
    Justin Watson
  • Node Boxes

    Maybe the soon to be unemployed at Ford/GMH/Toyota could be re-employed making node boxes. They could do a very fast Bathurst version.
    I don't know how long these things last in the UK before being vandalised, but I.d give them about one month in a lot of places in Oz.
    • Free Batteries for the Taking.

      Need a new battery for the car or want to store your excess solar output for night time use?
      Just visit your nearest node or two.

      It's painfully obvious why Tony wouldn't budge from "destroying the NBN"
      He'd already done a backroom deal with Murdoch & Telstra at the time.
      Once that cost him the prize he grudgingly switched to just wasting billions on a HCF/copper/node crippled version that still left his sponsors in charge to continue fleecing us.
      Noticed all those Foxtel ads lately?
  • Oakeshott Exposes the Cretins


    Rob Oakeshott has really exposed Abbott and his cronies for the ignorant cretins they really are.