Conroy circles shock jock in NBN debate

Conroy circles shock jock in NBN debate

Summary: Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has gone head-to-head with one of the conservative Sydney shock jocks he last week singled out as muddying the debate around the roll-out of the National Broadband Network (NBN): 2UE Afternoons host Mike Smith.


Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has gone head-to-head with one of the conservative Sydney shock jocks he last week singled out as muddying the debate around the roll-out of the National Broadband Network (NBN): 2UE Afternoons host Mike Smith.

Stephen Conroy

(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

Smith landed the first blows this afternoon, asking whether the minister still had confidence in the project given that NBN Co's head of construction had suddenly quit earlier this week in the wake of the company's decision to halt tender processes for the construction of the $37.5 billion network.

"I haven't had a briefing. In a company that I think has 400 to 500 employees now and Mr Flannigan is a senior figure in the organisation," Conroy told Smith. "I don't have a daily running brief from NBN to know who does and doesn't work there or why people come and go," Conroy said, adding that he has no oversight of the tendering process in general.

"It is an entity that is run at arm's length from government. While I'm aware there's ongoing discussions, I don't know who those discussions are with. It's not appropriate for me to be involved in this process on a day to day basis. I'd probably actually end up in jail if I was to be involved in the tender process."

Unable to secure an interview with NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley himself, Smith questioned Conroy on whether he had confidence in the CEO given that he was an executive at Alcatel-Lucent during the US$137 million bribery scandal, outed late last year. Conroy said that Quigley was not suspected of being involved in the bribery, and that he was not surprised that Quigley refused to be on the program.

"[It's] probably because you've spent your time trying to smear. You have made outrageous assertions about Mike that should be beneath you. Mike Quigley had nothing to do with the problems Alcatel had in other parts of the Alcatel business," Conroy told Smith. "Have you apologised to Mike Quigley yet for smearing him?"

Finding himself on the ropes, Smith attempted to call in help in the form of Ferris Smith from Kiama Downs, who had apparently decided not to have his house hooked up to the NBN.

"I thought the NBN was good, I wanted it. I was quite happy," the Kiama Downs resident said. "I said no, because if it were, it would have to come under the paving of a footpath and the big thing that worried me that it would have to go through my drainage. I can only see trouble and I said no."

Conroy rounded out the match by stating that many of the issues affecting installation at the first release sites would be addressed by the $11 billion deal to lease Telstra's ducts and pipes for the NBN fibre.

The debate runs over 20 minutes long, and is well worth listening to. Conroy may complain about Sydney's shock jocks and how they portray the NBN roll-out, but only through taking the argument directly to them will he ever have a chance of correcting what he perceives as inaccurate statements about the NBN.

Topics: NBN, Broadband, Government AU


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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  • I haven't listened to this interview but I dont know why Conroy would even bother wasting his time with this, seems the radio retards have already made up their minds about the NBN and are not going to change it anytime soon but hopefully this stuff will blow over in a few weeks and they'll find a new scandal to have a hissy fit over.
    Hubert Cumberdale
    • I am no great fan of shock jocks but where Conroy is involved, the greatest scrutiny is required. This minister only has the slimmest grasp on IT and yet is the minister but he is running an agenda i.e. "The Filter". He's getting his advice from where?
  • A new scandal such as who got bribed by Silcar to ditch the 14 other applicants - seems it wasn't Patrick Flannigan...
  • I read that telstra now has new wireless hot spots I could be wrong but I thought it was 4G. I hope the NBN is not another labour black hole.
    • Labour or Labor black hole?

      I think the former is what the NBN were trying to avoid by reigning in construction costs!
  • I'd probably actually end up in jail if I was to be involved in the tender process."

    That is exactly where this clown belongs. He may learn a thing or two in his spare time.
  • I understand and accept that NBNCo is run at arms length from the Government (as much as a Government owned company that has to operate within legislation dictated by the Government can be), but to accept that the Minister for Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy had not had a briefing the following day after a senior member of NBNCo resigned, especially after yet another failed tender process this time for constructions rights that obviously the head of construction would have been involved in is lunacy. Doesn't Conroy know how to use the phone or email all of a sudden?

    Sure it's a public relations nightmare and he doesn't want to comment but why does he always have to lie, and more specifically use that lie. He relies on "I don't have that information" or "I've not been briefed" too often which I don't accept as true. How can a Minister of such an important portfolio always know so little?

    Sure he can't know everything to do with his portfolio, but since he seems to fail at grasping some of the more basic concepts that encompass his portfolio he should at least know important information such as this almost as it happens. It's not like the NBN is one of the biggest if not the biggest (time will tell when we see how much it finally costs) infrastructure builds in this country's history, it can't be that important...

    Maybe he should just go back to attacking opponents or accusing them of being sympathetic to child porn, at least we know he can run his mouth without a briefing...
  • While i'm no fan of Conroys way of not directly answering questions, it's easy to see why he takes that approach. Mike Smith came across as a complete fool who was basically trying to engineer questions to distort the facts, and Conroy showed up his pathetic childish attempts to do so.
  • Well at least Sen Conroy got onto the telephone and put his position.
    Knowledge Expert
  • What the hell have these 400 to 500 employees been doing over the past few years. No wonder NBN is trying to screw the builders and its workforce.
    Vasso Massonic
    • NBN hasn't employed hundreds of people for years. Do you realise there are trials and construction going on right now?
      • The construction is maned by contracted labour who are not directly employed by the NBN co. The number was quoted by Conroy not me but I know for a fact that over a couple of hundreds chiefs with no indians have been working for years on something but failed to come up with an acceptable $ estimate of the work. Hence, the current hullabaloo.
        Vasso Massonic
        • Yay! Vasso replied!

          You know for a fact vasso? I'm glad the propaganda leaflets the coalition has been handing out got to you in a readable condition, given mine didn't.

          You know you could have added more weight to your comment by tacking onto the end "as I predicted given my extensive experience and insider knowledge of the Australian telecomm market from the telstra share holder report!"

          The reality is Vasso, you have no idea what's going on in NBNco.
        • Mr Massonic, what do you think they have been doing?

          Well... for example, they have gone from nothing to NBNCo - management and employee team(s).

          Been negotiating with suppliers.

          Finalizing the Corporate Plan.

          Finalising tender docs.

          Rolling out fibre to the first release sites.

          Supplying backhaul for example from Perth to Geraldton (although some will say that wasn’t NBN per se`).

          Signing up customers (via RSP’s of course) in Tasmania and dong so since mid 2010.

          They also now have clientele in Kiama, Armidale, Brunswick, etc

          Dealing with idiot politicians from both sides (and Greens and Independents)… especially…

          They have had to avoid hurdles and jump through hoops/slowing tactics from a bitter and jealous opposition. A sad opposition, sands vision, offering nothing but negativity (which is working with the equally negative and selfish, eh VasMas).

          And of course, they have been stifled by a typically belligerent yet now pulled into line Telstra…!

          Etc, etc…

          So, in that time what have you been doing?

          Oh, whinging and whining incessantly about the NBN, because of your political subservience to the Coalition and your warped NWAT based take of, and stake in, Telstra!

          Anyway, compare the NBNCo’s progress to that of the Howard government’s OPEL, even though you hated them too, because all profits were NOT going to go to Telstra and therefore not to YOU via your TLS stake!

          In comparison to OPEL (who did SFA in 12 months) the NBN is a beacon of success and going along at full speed ahead…

          Wouldn’t you agree VasMas?
  • I know many of us are a little city centric but the reality is Australia is a large place if your going to cable every farm house and small town I would have thought it obvious to any one with a few brain cells that the NBN was the wrong option.
    • Actually, farms and a vast majority of small towns wont be getting fibre. You should look a little harder at proposed fibre locations. It is rather sad.
    • "I know many of us are a little city centric but the reality is Australia is a large place if your going to cable every farm house and small town I would have thought it obvious to any one with a few brain cells that the NBN was the wrong option."

      Which is why they aren't I expect...
  • Oh GBE how right you are - you have nailed the problem. The proponents of the FTTH roll out are completely devoid of brain cells. Witness the pink batts saga which is still substantially unresolved. Many of the honest, hard working insulation contractors who stocked up with pink batts for the "program" are now stuck with warehouses full of pink batts that they will never get rid of. Apart from the tens of millions it is now costing to inspect every home that was "done" to see that it is now safe for human occupation. It is therefore not surprising that the 14 outfits that tendered put in a very large contingency to cover mal-administration by NBN co and Conroy and his mates. What prudential company tendering to this mob would not want to insulate (no pun intended) itself from stuff ups and moving goal posts.

    Go figure....
    • Dear Brian…

      You have had the audacity to accuse me of jumping upon anyone who disagrees with me, but yet, your comments say things such as (NBN/FTTP) supporters are "devoid of brain cells" or something equally ridiculously, disrespectful.

      Why? Because not everyone is a retired Lawyer who has no knowledge at all about comms and is a self confessed member (puppet) of the Liberal party and therefore disagrees with one who is…YOU!

      Once again I ask the question, who was it that actually fitted the pink batts unsafely? It was a few greedy “private enterprise” cowboys who spoilt it for all the honest batts installers and Australians in general… You blame Garret for the batts (and rightly so in some ways – the buck stops with the Minister). But who do you blame in the previous Coalition government for their little faux pas'? All kosher with you, I'm sure!

      Anyway… back on topic… we are here to talk comms. So understand this… the NBN isn’t perfect and I’m sure most if not all pro-NBNers would agree. However, it is far and away the best option we have.

      Even Bob Katter can recognize this. Here’s what he said about the Coalitions FUD –

      "I haven't heard the opposition put forward a single solitary piece of technology, and yet they think we should wait for some sort of science fiction fantasy to jump out from behind a bush and provide a service," Mr Katter said.

      I agree with Bob (never thought I’d say that) and like Bob, until such time the opposition or their subservient muppets can actually table something better or even plausible, you are the one coming across not only as a political puppet but also as the one with the questionable brain cell tally, my friend [sic]…!
      • Don't forget, doing nothing is always an option.
        Lore Coeur