Conroy resigns as Rudd returns

Conroy resigns as Rudd returns

Summary: Stephen Conroy has resigned as communications minister as former Australian Prime Minster Kevin Rudd is re-elected the leader of the federal Labor party.


Stephen Conroy has gone ahead with his threat to resign should former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd return to the top job.

(Image: Josh Taylor/ZDNet)

Following a caucus ballot for the leadership of the Labor Party tonight, Kevin Rudd has defeated sitting Prime Minister Julia Gillard 57 votes to 45. Conroy had threatened to resign as communications minister and leader of the Senate should Rudd be returned, and, according to Conroy's media office Twitter account, he has tonight said that he will step down from both roles.

No replacement for Conroy has yet been announced, but Finance Minister Penny Wong will reportedly replace Conroy as the leader of the government in the Senate.

Conroy was the shadow minister for communications for Labor from 2004, and has been the minister for communications for the entire life of the Labor government under both Rudd from 2007 to mid-2010 and Gillard from 2010 until today. Conroy's biggest legacy will remain his role in delivering structural separation of Telstra and a massive shakeup of the telecommunications industry with the advent of the National Broadband Network (NBN). Conroy oversaw the development and subsequent rollout of the ambitious AU$37.4 billion fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) National Broadband Network, which he announced with Rudd in April 2009.

The NBN was seen as a vote winner for Labor in 2010, and the Independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor both said that the NBN was a key factor in their decision to back Labor in a minority government, with the Coalition at the time vowing to end the project and instead opt for ADSL upgrades and wireless networks.

Both Oakeshott and Windsor announced today that they would not recontest the election in September.

After the 2010 election, however, Conroy faced a tougher opponent, with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott appointing Malcolm Turnbull as the new shadow communications minister. Turnbull has, for the last three years, focused on the cost of the network and the delays it has faced as a result of a lengthy negotiation with Telstra and difficulty with construction partners.

In April, the Coalition announced an alternative policy that would see the network scaled back to a fibre-to-the-node (FttN) network in most areas, which the party said would offer all Australians up to 25 megabits per second download speeds by the end of 2016.

While the NBN did win Conroy popularity, he also attracted criticism for the proposed mandatory internet filtering scheme that the government ultimately ditched at the end of last year. However, earlier this year, it was revealed that government agencies had been using a section of the Telecommunications Act to request ISPs to block websites that they believed to be in violation of Australian law.

Conroy's comments in late 2012 to a US telecommunications conference about his power over the telecommunications industry also drew criticism from the industry.

"We are in the fortunate position that the regulation of telecommunications powers in Australia is exclusively federal," he said at the time.

"That means I am in charge of spectrum auctions, and if I say to everyone in this room, 'if you want to bid in our spectrum auction, you'd better wear red underpants on your head', I've got some news for you. You'll be wearing them on your head."

At the digital dividend auctions, the government fell short of its desired revenue target, with only Optus, Telstra, and TPG acquiring spectrum, and 30MHz of the lucrative 700MHz spectrum band remaining unsold.

More to come.

Topics: Government, Government AU, NBN, 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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  • Finally

    I swear I could celebrate this otherwise-farce over this news alone
    • Wait and see....

      What the alternative is before celebrating. I can't remember the last good one, in either Labor or Coalition times (perhaps Barry Jones, but that's debatable (he was Science & Tech, not Communications)
  • A mixed bag for the fate of the NBN

    Overall, I think it's good news as Labor can do better under Rudd.
    For the NBN specifically, the loss of Conroy and Oakeshott dosen't help but Rudd will be looking for every positive he can heading in to the election and we all know that the NBN is good policy, popular with the electorate.

    Interesting times ahead...
  • Wow.

    Wow. Awesome. the news just keeps getting better. thank goodness Conroy is gone.
    John Read
    • A pathetic man

      Typical union boss; no commercial experience, abusive to everyone not sycophants, wasteful of taxpayers money, attempts to silence critics.

      He should be remembered for his NBNCo fantasy and its massive waste and delays, his attempts to silence the media not subservient to his spin.

      Like the rest of Labor's talentless front bench and the independents (jumping ship before their electorates can give them a well deserved hiding) we can be happy they've all gone.

      Sadly their $300+b debt will be with taxpayers for over a generation; whilst they continue to pull generous retirement benefits from taxpayers.

      The start of the end for the most incompetent govt since Whitlam.
      Richard Flude
      • Looking at it from the outside...

        it seems to me that Rudd is a much more competent politician than is Gillard, so maybe the Labor government will survive the next election. It is unusual for a sitting PM to be dumped by her own party, but not unheard of (I seem to recall that it happened to Margaret Thatcher too), and as far as I can tell, it's considerably less fatal for the governing party than was Whitlam's refusal to resign or call elections after losing a budget vote.
        John L. Ries
        • Some facts help rather than just opinion.

          It was not a "budget" vote that distressed the Whitlam Government. It was THE SUPPLY BILL being blocked by the Liberal-controlled Senate. It was on the very day of "The Dismissal", known to both Whitlam and Kerr that the Senate had agreed to pass this Bill meaning that Kerr sacked what would have become a functional Government. Because the passage of this Bill had been agreed and that information was known to all parties involved, Kerr's action was illegal.
          • Interesting "facts"

            Fraser offered to pass supply if an election was to be called early 76. This agreement was never made.

            The supply bill was passed by the senate after Kerr commissioned Fraser to become caretaker prime minister.

            Kerr sought legal opinion for his action, which concluded it would not be illegal.

            At least Whitlam has now lost the mantle of worst govt ever.
            Richard Flude
          • In Fact

            Whitlam under the circumstances could have successfully petitioned the Queen to sack Kerr and he knew it, but chose to avert a constitutional crisis.
            As a matter of interest he left Fraser/Howard a nice surplus.
            Even the IPA recognises the achievements of Whitlam in dragging Australia kicking and screaming int the 20th centurry.
            Australia actually owes much to Whitlam, though the media and coalition spin would have us believe differently
            Abel Adamski
          • Wasn't illegal...

   ministers legally serve at the pleasure of the Governor General (who is the titular chief executive), but it may or may not have been proper under the usual parliamentary conventions.

            Just because an official can do something, it doesn't mean he should (in Australia, or anywhere else).
            John L. Ries
      • Seriously though, Richard...

        Is his opposition contemporary (Turnbull) any better? I realise he's only Tony's puppet, but you'd think he'd have *some* integrity. Examine the various 'alternatives' he's proposed to the NBN, only to be replaced in turn as they're shot down in flames by those who know better.
        • We'll see

          Assuming they win the election they've set a very aggressive timetable to deliver what they've proposed.

          If be very surprised if Turnbull is anywhere as offensive and spin driven as Conroy.
          Richard Flude
          • Turnbull

            Telstra's Alan Bond
            You Richard should know that saga of arrogance by one who was a successfull self made multimillionaire of his day
            Abel Adamski
          • cannot say i agree

            I have met this fellow and found him to be somewhat arrogant and condescending .
            Knowledge Expert
      • Oh... Conroy

        Until you mentioned Labor I thought you were discribing yourself.
  • i wonder if Sen Conroy

    had lost interest in the communications portfolio in recent times. The NBN roll out has gone a little pear shaped, the wireless spectrum auction was not a huge success, the censorship thing was very unpopular.
    He was successful getting his broadband baby underway, shame NBN Co made a mess of the rollout.
    Knowledge Expert
  • Rudd's a dud! for his 3 year undermine the Government campaign

    Rewarding Rudd for his 3 year undermine the Government campaign, is bizarre.
    Rudd is the reason for all of Labors problems.
    He abandoned the Pacific Solution with no alternative policy in place.
    He cast aside his "alleged" belief that climate change was the most serious issue of our time to abandon the ETS, then showed unbelievable cowardice in not moving to a double dissolution against the Turnbull Opposition which would have been won handsomely by Labor and would have removed the senate obstruction by Family First.
    Rudd again showed cowardice in not presenting at the prior leadership ballot, I would say that Rudd's cowardice is going to be a huge problem when Abbott begins his personal attacks on Rudd as he will.

    The only thing going for Labor is the Abbott Opposition turned the whole opposition into such a large scale persecution of Gillard, Thompson and Slipper and totally forgot about the Labor Government. Now Gillard, Thompson and Slipper are gone what have all the personal attacks been about?
    Abbott will be unable to mount a second personal attack assault during an election period when he want's to be seen as Mr Nice Guy.
    His problem is he is now a very unpopular leader and the public loves the "Nice Mr Rudd" who was so cruelly stabbed in the back by the "witch".
    What I would like to see happen is for Rudd to win Government and the next day a new leadership ballot and Gillard returned to lead, this asshole needs to get what he deserves.
    Kevin Cobley
    • They'll simply show

      Sound bites of Labor figures attacking Rudd.
      Richard Flude
    • I'm sure that he'll get what he deserves in September.

      The question is do we deserve the Coalition?
      • Yes

        We chose to be followers and believe the Media and the Coalition
        Abel Adamski