Conroy's broadband forum to cost $500k

Conroy's broadband forum to cost $500k

Summary: A conference to be held at the University of New South Wales on the future of fast broadband will cost taxpayers $528,000.


update A taxpayer-funded conference to be held next month on the future of fast broadband will cost $528,000, documents reveal.

Hailed last week by the Federal Government as a "major forum", the Realising Our Broadband Future meet up will bring together Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, US web pioneer and now Google evangelist Vint Cerf, academics and the NBN Co's chief, Mike Quigley, to discuss what new applications will be possible in a high speed broadband world.

Documents available on the Federal Government's tender system revealed that the two-day forum, to be held on 10 and 11 December at the University of New South Wales, will cost over half a million dollars to put on. The contract was awarded to Paddington-based events management firm, Event Planet.

The forum follows a similar one organised earlier this year by the Department of Communications Broadband and the Digital Economy called Ready for Digital TV, which cost around $700,000.

Shadow Communications Minister Nick Minchin said the latest forum was a cynical attempt to cover the government's alleged cart-leading-the-horse approach to the National Broadband Network (NBN).

"The Rudd Government has recklessly committed to spend up to $43 billion of taxpayers' money on an NBN and now wants to hold a summit to talk about how it might be used. You would think they would have worked this out beforehand," Minchin said in a statement.

"This is nothing but a cynical marketing exercise and all it does is highlight the fact that Labor's handling of broadband policy is like watching a slow-motion train wreck in the making.

"This is straight from the Kevin Rudd handbook; hold another summit to disguise the fact he has failed to actually deliver a new broadband connection despite his election promise to do so."

In emailed comments, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said it was clear from what he said were Minchin's "uninformed comments" that the Shadow Communications Minister had no understanding of the "truly remarkable applications that will be enabled in a superfast broadband environment".

"These applications promise transformational opportunities for education, health, business, government and the community, and will help drive new productivity and growth for Australia's future economy," said Conroy. "This landmark forum will highlight the opportunities and help our research community and commercial sectors plan for the digital applications, services and business models of the future."

Topics: Broadband, Government AU, NBN

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Business at Business School...

    This is absolutely absurd. Can we please ensure the Minister is invited to join his friends in Treasury at ANU's 2010 intake for Economics 101?

    Why are we investing in the creation of marketing strategies for what remains a product with; 1) no tabled costs, 2) no funding model, and 3) no 'demand' as a function of 'price' forecasts?

    Let's use the retail analogy to highlight the ineptitude of this Minister and his waste of another $0.5M. Remembering the NBN Co. will be strictly limited to wholesale activity (swaying neither consumer trends nor the app's and services it supports), this forum takes on a flavour akin to a shelving manufacturer (i.e. NBN Co.) meeting with a potato chip supplier (Google) to discuss the optimimum shelf specs for the sale of chips - but all without consulting the retail outlets (ISPs), which own the customers!

    Imagine the retailer is Woolworths: would a shelf maker commit design resources and to a production run for all Woollies' store locations on the promise of the chip supplier, but without an order from Woolworths itself? To revisit the funding question, would any investor allocate their hard earned into the hands of such a management team, regardless of the quality of their shelves?

    And onto the waste of $0.5M; do we think Woollies wouldn't consult the shelving manufacturer on the 'new chip shelf specs' at their own expense unless there was little in it for them?

    Why oh why are taxed Australians paying for something the ISPs would gladly talk Mr. Squigley through pro-bono? Or can we decipher from their non-attendance that they've already accepted there actually wont be much in it for them afterall?
  • Wheres the Any Key?

    Jaques, im sorry that you dont have any idea what your talking about. Thinly veiled attacks on anything that Conroy does wont change the fact that this just a step in the process.

    But lets use some hyperboles because clearly they make your point quite well.

    If you opened a business would you advertise that you had opened and what your business could do? It sounds like you would just open your business, not advertise in any way, and expect clients to magically turn up based on nothing. Oh but they wouldnt turn up, and you would go out of business because noone knew what you did in the first place or that you were even there. Lucky you arent running the NBN!

    Theres nothing wrong with getting people talking in the industry about what can be done with a 21st century network, because the possibilities are almost endless. Telstra themselves had a paper done on the monetary benefits on an NBN for this country, but now that they arent building it, there arent any? From what i recall they estimated a 1% increase in GDP year on year, but i guess GDP and everything else doesnt matter if your a shareholder.

    I for one am looking forward to hearing about the future options for this country that will come with the NBN.
  • Hardcore Waste

    Our hospitals could do with this money...
  • Every child will live in poverty soon.

    43 thousand million dollars on a system that could be provided far far cheaper and people worry about a mere half a mill.

    Go Conroy, why hold back give a new holden with every new customer. When the deficit hits the trillion let us taxpayers know.

    We'll arange for our next five generations of kids to go into poverty to pay it off. Try to save a little for hospitals though they are in a bad way. Cheers.
  • Talk talk talk

    Does this government do anything except talk and spend money?
    Where did they get the $43m figure from in the first place?
    Some people say it can be done cheaper (if at all!). So, let's reduce the price by say $10m. We build a few new hospitals which we actually NEED (Oh - didn't Kev promise to fix the hospitals - the buck stops with him???), and then find a way of spending the rest on the NBN or whatever other fanciful scheme Kev dreams up in the meantime. We can easily add a 6th generation to help pay it all off.
    If Kev is an economic conservative and reckons he is all about infrstructure, then put some significant portion of this money into hospitals, roads, schools etc and get the priorities right.
  • 2 for Business School please...

    Anon., you emphasise my point competently.

    If I were to offer a mild criticism, you seem to have overlooked the difference between 'marketing' (i.e. assessing demand for a proposed product or service) and 'advertising' (flogging the goods or services you're offering to meet that demand). To achieve the finished product in this scenario, there are a few steps in the production cycle which have been neglected; namely the creation of a business case and a funding model, undoubtedly the two most important buttons on any entrepreneur's Van Heusen.

    To answer your first question, if I opened a business (and was fortunate enough to have some remaining crumbs to advertise) I would target any ads at my potential paying customers. If I was charged with operating the NBN Co. I would not need to invest in ads as mine will be the only game in town and my paying customers (ISPs) know where I am. It is the ISPs, the retailers with the floor space, who would invest in advertising to their customers.

    Your contention is that advertising is a necessary part of this 'process' and I'd agree, however the responsibility for this is a step in the chain (and a few years) removed from where you position it. Advertising should not be NBN Co.'s concern one iota. Show me an Australian ISP who is unaware of this project, the Minister's objectives OR from whom they're ultimately to acquire access to the network and I'll show you a very poorly run ISP.

    Anon., you need to understand that should NBN Co. ever actually fulfil its charter, it will be a wholesale only monopoly, and therefore not the entity responsible for advertising itself to end-users. If NBN Co. did need to advertise (as unlikely as that should be) they'd target the ISPs, not peripheral beneficiaries of the Nation's investment, such as Google (remember the ISPs have not been invited to this soiree).

    And in response to your final sentence, just keep reading ZDNet and I assure you that you wont miss a single detail concering this debacle... gratis!
  • talking

    actually, I remember this same discussion taking place in 2000 and 2001. We all got excited about home health, tele learning, ecommuting, interactive Tv etc. Blah, blah blah. We're still talking about meaningless side issues.

    Let's talk about building infrastructure and what the wholesale arrangements will be. Let's talk content and piracy - will the NBNCo be sued for piracy by AFACT?

    Talking about what applications is just stupdid, like arranging deck chairs..
  • Another costly Labor gabfest

    I am personally sick and tired of KRudd & Co holding meetings instead of just doing something. What the hell does Senator Conroy have to get together with a bunch of screwy academics and a yank to dicuss an issue that will end up being decided by the corporate sector and their customers anyway?

    My guess is that the FTTH network will get used for making and receiving phone calls, broadband Internet, tie lines, closed circuit data links and perhaps television - ie: mostly things that the current copper network gets used for. The big difference, hopefully, will be the obvious ones, capacity and speed. Why do we need to spend half a million dollars on this for?
  • So what

    So what?? 500k is chicken feed.
  • Mortgage

    Would pay off my mortgage....
  • Mortgage

    And mine, and a lot of other Aussies with more intelligence than the person that said that.
  • nbn on the right track

    For the charlatans out there, it must be acknowledged that this is a government initiative as was telstra before it morphed into a tax payer fund guzzler. The government i believe has definitely taken the right approach. If i understand correctly, this would be a case of direct marketing. Also please dont talk Business Jacques I think im french and i think i know everything chiron, Governments dont operate identical to the private sector, or we wouldnt have NBN in the first place, We'd just be succumbing to the fancies of Telstra because they're business oriented- not rural australia must be connected oriented. Internet users have enough knowledge to make informed decisions and can fast track ISP providers for more incentive prone planS from the government. The government has its own portal and gateways to attaract people via, healthcare, educational institutions, centrelink, IP australia, etc etc and the vast array of government backed entities such as ActewAgl or whatever. A funding model can be conceived quite quickly if u pay a couple of business jockeys. Its the idea that needs support, we want it to be nurtured in our minds and marinade...
    Please keep in mind, the global financial meltdown transpired out of these outdated business models u talk about. We need new approaches everywhere and Kevin Rudd is on the right track. There is no coffer more sound to be at the vanguard of this endeavor then the government. This is for the future. 15 years from now. Not tomorrow.
    Viva la revolucion!
  • Little World

    It is chicken feed. Compare it to how much will be spent on the NBN ... numpties.
  • Sweet forum , I hadn't noticed before till my neighbor told me about it.
    Keep up the great work! I will be contributing more at

    Looking forward to some good times here at

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