Dear Libs: let the NBN fall on its own

Dear Libs: let the NBN fall on its own

Summary: The NBN may have lost the Coalition the election, but it could win them the next one if they play their cards right. But doing that will require them to step back from their current FUD-filled smear campaign that vilifies what they argue could be, and give the NBN three years to grow so it can be judged on what it actually is. If it's as bad as they say, they'll send Gillard and Conroy home with tails between legs. But do the Liberals have the guts?


No matter how hard they try, the Liberals just can't seem to discredit the NBN based on anything other than sheer speculation based on a combination of financial furphies and a bit of nudge nudge (wink wink) implying that Labor couldn't organise a proverbial in a proverbial.

But there really isn't any real proof that the NBN is a white elephant; it's early days and Labor seems to be spending more time arguing with the Opposition than getting on with things.

The causes of the Liberal-loving right haven't really helped: The Australian's temper tantrum has simply discredited the paper by revealing its obvious anti-Labor bias, throwing more dirt on its coffin with each determinedly anti-NBN story — each rearranging the same old facts and painting them with a specious blend of opinion and selective truths.

(Gauntlets image by V'A Museum, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Readers see through it: my piece on the paper's vendetta netted a mind-boggling 156 comments, which I am still wading through, and most of them disagreed with the opposition-at-all-costs approach to the NBN.

Judging by the public discourse, at least, far too many people are taking the NBN far too personally.

You'd think Labor was trying to force us all to eat live cane toads or tattoo Julia Gillard's face across our shoulder blades, rather than making the first serious attempt to fix a decade of failed telecoms policy, breathe life into a privately-controlled network even Telstra is winding down, and improve communications services to people that haven't a snowball's chance of getting it otherwise.

Cost issues aside, I think we can agree that Labor's NBN would meet all these objectives. Can't we?

An alternative plan based substantially on wireless is no plan at all and we already have a robust, competitive wireless market that doesn't need government intervention. So that leaves fibre, and Labor's NBN.

We can never expect the Opposition to agree with the government, but does that mean they should have the right to block and delay debate, fuel a campaign of fear, uncertainty and doubt, and do everything but lie down in front of NBN Co's bulldozers just to avoid being proved wrong?

Some may say so, but after a point this blind opposition is looking less and less like robust checks and balances, and more like a personal grudge that is ignoring both the facts and the growing call to proceed with the NBN.

You'd think Labor was trying to force us all to eat live cane toads or tattoo Julia Gillard's face across our shoulder blades, rather than making the first serious attempt to fix a decade of failed telecoms policy.

People that learn about the NBN, seem to like it. Those that get it, seem to love it. Those that aren't interested, well, that's fine too.

But very significant groups of people including state governments, local chambers of commerce, businesses of all sizes and shapes, and the millions of Australians suffering inadequate broadband want it. And the more the Liberals' arguments are discredited, and the more the party's policies come to resemble Labor's, the more people are realising that the NBN is not the enemy of progress; the Opposition is.

Tony Abbott may think the project is a white elephant, but Malcolm Turnbull has become an albatross around Stephen Conroy's neck. His call for a cost-benefit analysis does not have universal support, and rings strangely hollow given that the Coalition didn't trust the government to cost its own pre-election promises; the Labor-led government supposedly can't be trusted to evaluate Coalition policy.

But its opinion on the NBN is suddenly worth something?

For the next three years, all the Liberals can really accomplish in opposition is to be one giant thorn in Labor's side. So far, they've shown themselves to be indefatigable on this point.

And when it comes election time, they'll point to the still-in-progress NBN, and all its shortcomings, as though it were a failure of Labor's NBN policy. Julia Gillard, assuming she is still PM by then, will argue that the plan was always a good one but that the meddling Coalition has slowed progress by its obstinacy. And she will be right: if the Liberals just keep dragging the chain, any failure of the NBN to reach its potential will be as much their fault as Labor's.

So, Mr Turnbull and your laboriously lamenting Luddite Liberals, here's a revolutionary idea: cede the NBN as a fait accompli. Back away from your opposition-for-opposition's sake, facilitate the passage of necessary legislation, and let the winds of change blow where they will. Voice your vociferous opposition for the Hansard, then let Labor get up a head of steam behind the NBN so we can see what it's capable of doing.

If the NBN is as bad as you say, it will sink and sink badly. You can then, and with the force of righteousness on your side, step in and cruise into power: Gillard has staked her prime ministership on the NBN, after all, and just as it lost you this election, it could win you the next one.

What do you think? Do the Liberals have the guts to take on the NBN? Will they keep fighting its progress tooth and nail as though it had insulted their mothers or eaten their dogs?

Topics: NBN, Banking, Broadband, Government AU


Australia’s first-world economy relies on first-rate IT and telecommunications innovation. David Braue, an award-winning IT journalist and former Macworld editor, covers its challenges, successes and lessons learned as it uses ICT to assert its leadership in the developing Asia-Pacific region – and strengthen its reputation on the world stage.

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  • David Brueu

    That unfortunately is not going to happen, because when you sell something to people using a massive amount of their own money and fail to convince them why they need it, you need to be 120% more convincing, and the figure I would put on Labor currently is less then 50%

    Labor is failing to sell the NBN for obvious reasons, and regardless if people are (correct) or not in regards to their complaints against the NBN, a lot of people simply feel like the NBN (as a premium service, and they see it is a premium service because they see no use out of it apart from entertainment, as does a lot of other people) is being forced onto them

    People have come to accept that building hospitals and roads and whatnot in certain areas actually works, there is in fact empirical proof that it works. This is not the case for a FTTH scheme (because if it was then every first world country would be spending, government funds on doing national FTTH schemes, and they are not)

    So unfortunately, Labor shot themselves in the foot when doing this magic visionary idea, that is it turns out, is only visionary to a minority and a waste of money to the rest. If you are going to make some visionary scheme out of government funds, then do you research and homework to actually find out if thats what the nation (as a whole) wants and not what a small group of very vocal IT/Rural people want.

    This is politics, get used to it
  • Oh deteego, we all realise that you are against the NBN because if it is canned and the Coalition were to win power, they will pay subsidies to private companies (such as, umm, YOURS) and you and your company will grab that money with both hands, whilst physically laughing out loud, build the network with OUR money, but YOUR company, not us the taxpayers, will inevitably own the network!

    You must talk the NBN down at all costs, because you can't have the "taxpayer" own the network when YOU
  • Taxpayers won't own the network, the government does (which is then going to be sold to a private company, if it ever gets built). We don't live in socialism RS (and the government isn't any better the private companies in regards to being "good" and "nice")

    Also I don't work at Telstra or PIPE or any type of wholesaler for networks, resorting to personal attacks such as this is just weakening your argument. In fact, considering my profession, I would be jumping for the NBN, but I know better then to be bribed
  • "because if it was then every first world country would be spending, government funds on doing national FTTH schemes, and they are not" Does that include the US, Malcolm's favourite? The same country which, after 70 years of struggling, has only just been on the verge of having a semi-universal health coverage system and is now on the verge of losing it.

    The same country that is so well governed that it has brought a global financial crisis upon us and now cannot even reliably foreclose on its mortgages and so that it now appears the title insurance companies will be brought to their knees as a result of a huge increase in claims.

    Are they the sort of countries whose example we should be following?
  • Oh so going by your logic, in that case it's not taxpayer money that is being used for the NBN, it's government money, so what's the problem???

    Intereresting that after our previous discussions where you mentioned subsidies to Contractors as your #1 priority, you then asked why a company such as PIPE isn't included.

    There are government (not taxpayer, LOL) dollars there and no matter how much you bag the NBN, you ain't gettin' any...!
  • No by every country, I really do mean every country, not just America. There isn't a single country that is spending FTTH scheme solely with government funds and getting everyone forced onto FTTH and forcing everyone off copper

    Even Japan has like 60-70% of their population on FTTH, and the rest on ADSL2+

    Almost all the FTTH schemes are being done solely by private sector, in some cases with subsidies from the government
  • No the government is using our money (taxpayers money) to create a layer2 network (NBNCo) that is going to be owned by the government. It's not owned by us, I have no idea why that concept is so hard to understand.

    If we owned NBNCo, we would have say in how its run, in how expensive the wholesale price is etc etc etc
  • So according to you, if I gave you money to build something, its technically mine (even if I specifically just "gave" you the money)

    According to you, I can step into my local hospital right now, and demand they do x and y since they spent my (taxpayers) money on it

    You have some screwed up logic in your head
  • Deteego,

    Labor isn't failing to sell the NBN, the fact opposition brutal attacks on the NBN, even though Market has failed in the last 12 years.

    And No it's not a waste of money, when something is in need of a fix, and the private industry won't do it, the government steps in.
  • The NBNCo won't get sold to a private company, other parties will put to that, I can assure you.

    Stop jumping the gun before it hatches.
  • You cannot compare with our broadband scheme and whats required to fix the current industry to those overseas, everything from distance, to incumbents and isps, regulations and laws, monopolies and so on.

    deteego, you have very limited understanding the size, scope, and problems associated with Australia's telecommunications.
  • deteego, we do have a say in what comes at what price and so on, being a government owned company they have more pressure than private industry, as private industry most of the time is looking after the shareholders, the shareholders for NBNCo is the Government of the Day.
  • Obviously ZeroNut (although our country in terms of geography is similar to Africa/Russia/America and in regards to telecommunications for America and Russia). I don't have any limited understanding, the problem Australia (had) is a vertically intergrated monopoly that wasn't regulated until it was way too late (unlike NTT) and both governments not giving enough subsidies for infrastructure deployment in rural areas, other countries have however done this, and its been proven to work. This NBN has not been proven to work, and Conroy hasn't proven it in at least the slightest

    This still however does nothing to help the argument that the majority of Australians see no point in this visionary 100mbit NBN. If you want to do some visionary plan that can easily collapse and fail on itself, get the private sector to do it, because at least that way they won't screw up the rest of the country if they fail

    Its a complete failure of delivery on policy on Conroys regard, if he actually tried to do FTTH in a different way (using private companies for example and forcing them to do it with subsidies/proper laws) then people wouldn't care, because its not as much of our own money that we lose

    Visionary policies using massive amounts of tax payers money only work if the (majority) of people actually share your own vision, that isn't the case for the NBN
  • People who refused to use ADSL 10 years ago are now signing up to it in droves and loving it. Why ? We have the technology. That's right folks, that is what investing in the future means. If the telcos and companies didn't put in that investment in hopes that you'll be begging for it now - we won't have broadband - no matter how backwards it is compared to other countries.

    NBN is the same thing. You have to spend the money on the infrastructure today so you can boast to your workmates 4 years from now how quickly that porn site came up on your laptop.

    Unfortunately a lot of Australians are still haunted by the ghost of Howard. What infrastructure did Howard invest on ? Yes the Costello-Howard team paid off a lot of debt - but at what cost ?

    On a scale of economics - we are still a very rich country. Investing in infrastructure means jobs. That is right - you make more money.

    So stop being an idiot when talking about NBN. You know you want it. Its the idiot in you that can't admit it!
    Azizi Khan
  • Number of things
    1. NBNCo (if its being built) will be sold to a private company when it does get built, its just using (our) funds for the initial build
    2. We technically do not have a say, we vote for someone who we think will do what we like, but we don't have a direct say in what happens. We definitely do not "own" NBN in the sense that RS uses (owns implies that we have direct control)
  • No they are completely failing to sell it, if they weren't then there wouldn't be any opposition to NBN, Labor would have been voted a complete majority (back then the NBN didn't even have any criticism, it was just a fantastic FTTH scheme) and the Australian wouldn't be bashing at NBN at every chance it could

    There is every indication (hell here is even an article on ZDnet that they are failing to sell the NBN
  • Conroy/Keven Rudd said it would be sold, its under their policy.

    If you are arguing that we are jumping the gun, you can say that for anything about the NBN (hell I can predict that the NBN won't be built, that aint jumping the gun)

    One thing is for sure, the coalition would probably support the sell, and so would Labor, so the odds aren't stacked in your favor
  • How is NBN the same thing, the Telco industry forked out all the money required for the upgrade to ADSL (DSLAMS and modems/filters alike), there wasn't any (as far as I am aware of) any injection (or use) of government funds for that upgrade
  • Just because it's their policy doesn't make it obsolete, they need support of Independents and the Greens to pass the sale of NBN. This is including any legislation/regulation changes.
  • Obviously deteego doesn't have any understanding of any issue.

    Australia still has a monopoly provider called Telstra, it's vertically Integrated (Foxtel, Cable, Retail, Wholesale).

    Your failer to understand of visionary policies tend to work better than giving money to private industry to work it out. The Last 12 years of Coalition provided this FACT.

    Your also failing to understand that tax payer money is tax payer money, and anything that is set up by the government is owned by the Australian tax payer. Yes, they can sell NBNCo, but they need the support of parties and independents. And the rate they going, other parties want insurances they will be included in the deal before it's a final sale deal.

    The ACCC may also have a say in the matter, if it's against Australia's Interest.