Australian government blocks Conroy's 2007 Red Book release

Australian government blocks Conroy's 2007 Red Book release

Summary: After blocking the release of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull's incoming ministerial briefing documents, the Department of Communications has also blocked the release of Conroy's incoming ministerial briefing documents from 2007.


The Department of Communications has blocked the release of former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's incoming ministerial briefing document, known as the Red Book, from 2007, stating that the contents of the book are still relevant today.

At the calling of the election, every government department prepares a Red Book or a Blue Book for the incoming Labor or Coalition minister, respectively, to provide advice to the minister on issues facing the department and portfolio, and advice on the policies that minister took to the election.

In November last year, the release of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull's Blue Book was blocked from release under Freedom of Information (FOI). The decision was based on what is believed to be a new precedent set by the government to block the release of almost all incoming departmental briefing documents under FOI because it would limit the ability of public services to offer "frank and comprehensive advice" to the incoming minister.

The release of the document would lead to public servants tailoring incoming briefings into "a more generic bland document" that wouldn't raise difficult questions for the minister on how to enact their promises and party policy, the department argued at the time.

In November, ZDNet filed an FOI request to the Department of Communications, seeking access to Conroy's 2007 Red Book. The document would have contained much of the department's views on Labor's policy for a National Broadband Network (NBN), which at that time was to be a fibre-to-the-node network, the kind of network that the Coalition will now be seeking to build as part of its revised NBN.

In December, the department's assistant secretary for governance Andrew Madsen denied this request, stating that despite the age of the document, many of its parts are still relevant.

"Notwithstanding the age of the 2007 Red Book, it deals with many issues that remain of contemporary importance," he said.

Madsen referred to a decision on 2010 incoming briefing documents from the Information Commissioner that noted that Treasury officials had sought to keep those documents confidential not for the contents of the documents, but rather to keep the documents confidential like Cabinet records.

Madsen stated that the entire 2007 Red Book was exempt from release on the grounds that the disclosure of the document could "have a substantial adverse effect on the proper and efficient conduct or operations of an agency".

"I consider the contemporary nature of the matters dealt with in the briefs means that the effect of their release would not be materially different to the effect of the release of the recently produced incoming government brief," he added.

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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  • Parliamentary inquiry

    As an ex-minister now in opposition, is Sen. Conroy allowed to disclose what he remembers from his 2007 Red Book?
    John L. Ries
    • I doubt he would want to do that

      as it would be very embarrassing to him. Conroy's "famous" words were, "$4.7 billion and not a cent more!"
  • More embarrasing for Allbull

    Considering that was all about FTTN being a dud, it's no wonder Turnbull has adopted the usual LNP tactic of mushroom information release to protect & promote his 'Back to The Future' NBN.
  • Hippocratic bullshit is forever making most Aussies evermore confused

    So lemme get this straight, according to Turnbull a few weeks back the review from the board of NBNCo made during the caretaker period (as shown by David Braue) is irrelevant... but a document that is in essence 6 years old is somehow going to cause some form of problem with improving broadband quality in this country?

    Could it be that both briefs unequivocally draw the same conclusion when it comes to FTTN? Why else would you have to hide the thing?
    Demon Down Under
    • There is a common thread to all blocked information...

      In 2007 was being advised that FTTH was the way to go and the FTTN policy was a dud...
      The, now leaked, NBNCo caretaker report was saying FTTN was a dud...
      The blue book was made up with advice that, you guessed it, said FTTN was a dud...

      Turnbull is clinging onto his dud policy because he can never admit he is wrong. If he does drop it for a decent policy, he will blame someone else (as per Utegate)
  • Bureaucrats & secret business !

    What is the point of having FOI legislation & rules to make the bureaucracy & politicians honest, when they can obfuscate, cover up & redact so much of it.

    Why would anyone believe ANY politician or bureaucrat?

    Most are inveterate liars who's only interest is there income & hip pocket!

    If the taxpayer is going to pay for the NBN, we should be allowed to know what they intend doing with the huge amount of money involved.

    Allbull knows he is promoting a dud NBN !
  • Typo Critic

    Sorry Demon Down Under, but please leave Hippocrates to the medicos and the bullshit to pollies and hypocrites!
  • The no surprises Government

    This is the open and transparent Government Abbott PROMISED us. This liar will do anything to hide the truth about Turnbull's failure to produce an alternative NBN to Labor's superior FTTP. Fraudband obviously isn't the way to go.
    He has kept one promise so far that he will lead a "no surprises Government." The reason for this is because they are doing absolutely nothing. Do nothing, say nothing, surprise nobody.
    Abbott must think women cannot keep a secret and that may be the reason he only has one in his ministry. Making her Foreign Minister will keep her away for a lot of the time where she will not cause any damage.
  • Worth consideration

    Australia can now never have a National Broadband network, just a patchwork of mini monopolies that have no incentive to upgrade, especially if subject to regulation and enforced wholesaling, with the rural sector either thrown to the wolves or massively taxpayer subsidised.
    At least Rural Oz will have the NBN satellites , as long as the Libs don't do their usual trick of flogging them off to the private sector who will right royally screw their customers over
    Abel Adamski
  • Shock Horror

    Australia is truly not a Nation of sheep, rather a Nation of frogs
    Abel Adamski
  • does anyone care about the 70 billion the labor version was going to cost ?

    Remember.. it was found by independent investigators that labor had massively underestimated the cost of FTTH. Do we really want to spend that much on a network when we'll all be getting half gigabit speeds on wireless technologies in 15 years anyway?

    Remember, nobody can to this day tell us where the billions of dollars of income the NBN would earn us would be coming from.. particularly when the first result would likely be most of our IT industry being outsourced to foreigners. Why have servers here when you have amazon, microsoft, google and co clambering over each other to rent you remote servers.. why have local backup when you can get them to do the same thing.. why have local IT staff when your servers and backups are all overseas? So we know it'd cost us billions in lost income.. but where is this massive windfall of new income going to come from exactly? Most of the people clamoring for FTTH are just geeks wanting a fast home connection (I'm one of them but that isn't the point) I Still don't want the government blowing 70 billion on something when most of our network usage right now is already wireless based... imagine what it will be like in 10-15 years? I already use facebook/google+/Twitter etc from my tablet or phone.. I already do most browsing from my 3G tablet I already have a 10gig net connection at work and in general usage it's not noticeably faster for browsing of FB etc than my 3G connnection...

    Spend the 70 billion on fixing roads, education etc
    • Really?

      Wow, nice political axe you grind there frankieh. Lets see... $70b. Who were the independent investigators that came up with that figure, and who commissioned the study? Seriously, these claims have been demonstrated as wrong so many times its ridiculous.

      Either way, what makes you think the Liberal plan is any more protected from the same problems you claim here? Its already gone up over 33% and it hasnt even started yet.

      Now, wireless technologies. You know, that might be the only correct thing you state - we probably will be on 500 Mbps speeds in 15 years. At a point where we're probably demanding 1 Gbps. But even if we arent, how do those signals travel at 500 Mbps? Do you even know how the wireless network works? Once the signal hits the mobile tower, the rest of its journey is via fixed line. So if wireless is 500 Mbps speed, the fixed line needs to do that as well. So basically needs to be fiber for its entire run with zero copper. So why isnt that fiber being rolled all the way into the houses and businesses it passes along the way?

      As for servers and Amazon, etc. Do you know that Amazon has a data centre here in Australia? For Australian users? True story.

      As for your last line, simply cant happen. The dollars arent tax dollars, they cant be diverted into roads, education, etc. It would be like getting a home loan then going and buying 10 cars instead. The creditor simply wont allow it.

      Rather than being a political shill, try educating yourself on both sides of your story first. You may find that what you think its true is actually a long way from reality.

      One last thing - where is the windfall of new income. Take that attitude back to 1999 when most people used dialup. Same arguments were put forward against ADSL, and a few years later, against ADSL2. Where are the benefits? Ask yourself at the same time what benefits 500 MBps mobile broadband offers you.

      What on earth makes it beneficial to develop that when you "use facebook/google+/Twitter etc from my tablet or phone" and "already do most browsing from my 3G tablet". You cant see a need for faster land lines, so whats going to create a need for faster mobile wireless?