Good NBN numbers no guarantee: Turnbull

Good NBN numbers no guarantee: Turnbull

Summary: Even if the business case for the National Broadband Network stacks up, many business that have gone bankrupt started out with positive business cases, Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said yesterday.


Even if the business case for the National Broadband Network (NBN) stacks up, many companies that have gone bankrupt started out with positive business cases, Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said yesterday.

Malcolm Turnbull

(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

"[I] have seen dozens if not hundreds of business plans that all look fantastic. They can produce a business plan with good numbers in it but that doesn't guarantee success. There is not one bankrupt business that didn't start off with a fabulous business plan," Turnbull said at a Vocus datacentre launch in Sydney yesterday. "They couldn't have gotten the credit if they didn't have the business plan."

After sitting on the document for over a month, it is expected that Communications Minister Stephen Conroy will release a censored version of the 400-page NBN business case by tomorrow at the latest.

Turnbull said he doesn't expect the document to contain all the financial details.

"The most recent intelligence we have is that it is going to be shorn of all relevant financial detail; there won't be any assumptions about take-up, there won't be any assumptions about wholesale pricing. I don't know how it could be a meaningful document without it."

The shadow minister went as far as to say he didn't think the project would ever be completed.

"The view of people who know a lot more about networks and the grittiness of rolling out networks to homes and businesses ... is they think it will end up costing a lot more than they've estimated," he said. "I don't know anyone who thinks it will ever be completed. So what do you do with a partly built NBN?"

He said the failure of the project could potentially cast a shadow over the ICT industry in Australia.

"It's a bit of a dream the old NBN. It appeals to dreamers," he said. "But if you're stuck in traffic or you can't get a train and you're wondering why there's no money invested in that... people before long will be blaming the NBN. Which won't be good for the industry because frankly it will give the internet industry a bad rap because people will be very disappointed."


Turnbull said he wasn't too concerned in being named in any of the US diplomatic cables as they are leaked through whistleblower website Wikileaks.

"I think it would be very flattering to be mentioned in dispatches, if you can be mentioned flatteringly," he said. "I always thought Mark Arbib was a double agent, I just didn't know who he was working for. It's nice to know he's working for the Americans."

Topics: Government, Broadband, Government AU, NBN


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 think Turnbull is clutching at straws here. You can't compare an average business to the NBN. It will have a monopoly from day one and I don't think too many monopolies go broke.
  • We need an early election before this NBN blackhole gets any bigger. Medicare is a monopoly too but who pays for it.
  • As I've said in the past, The Coalition (of evil?) opposition are if nothing else, consistant. After all their tirades of venom at the goverment for a lack of a Business case. Now it appears that even if the Business case report, when it is released is favourable, they will not allow it to pass. I think it is just that they didnt come up with the Idea in the first place so it cant be any good.
    Back in the Sixties wasnt it the Coalition (Menzies Govt) who decided that Australia should forget about Industry and Hi tech products and go back to the Farm. They stopped supporting the fledgling Electronics and Aircraft industries and almost all went under. Its taken us almost half a century to start to recover. The Howard Govt almost tried to do the same thing again in the last decade.
  • Urrrgh.. Its so annoying.

    Does the Pacific Highway have a business case? Well no.. but it's necessary infrastructure which can only be operated by a government, due to the fact that its not really economically viable if a private business did it... duh!
  • Umm the taxpayer does...

    And as a taxpayer with a conscience, I certainly do not have a problem with my tax dollars saving people with life threatening illnesses, rather than them actually being let die, simply because they can't afford the remedy... which is why Medicare is great.

    But apparently you believe user pays... or if not, user pays the ultimate price.

    You greedy TLS shareholders screaming poor me and my shares, really take the cake, eh?...!
  • Do you seriously think that major road projects don't have a business case? I can't speak for NSW but in VIC we certainly do! A business case is about more than just cash. They also look at alternatives and the pros and cons between them.
  • seriously this guy gives me the sh#ts.....on what basis does he say that a government infrastructure project that has both commercial and benevolent/social KPI's needs a business plan? And why does he not realise that we KNOW he'll bludgeon regardless what the business plan says.
  • So why did Malcom and the Libs spent so much demanding a business case? Now it seems that it is a waste of money, or so his comments seem to indicate.

    I thought that he was told that there were already studies done before the business plan - and that futher documentation would be a waste of time and money.

    Now it seems that he agrees with those who told him as much before he started carrying on.

    Now here's a thought - Give Malcom and the Libs the bill for the business plan - of course based on the principal of "user pays". Then I dont care what he does with it. In-fact send them a bill for wasting taxpayer money for the time spent on parlimentry debate regarding the meaningless business plan. We might even go them fees and charges for late roll out, and Telstra might want to join in the act for the charges they incurred waiting in limbo for decisions to be made.

    For Pete's sake lets move on.
  • Don't forget they also want a costly CBA done, which (as I said previously) is a joke, because regardless of any outcome they will oppose and ridicule it... (as they did the business case, McKinsey report, OECD report etc)... see any patterns forming?

    A CBA (although difficult considering the timeframe and technological unknowns) done for the right reasons is one thing, but it is obvious (and Malcolm even said) even if the CBA says the NBN should proceed they will still oppose it, so... seriously WTF!

    Obviously for Mal and the opposition, it's simply about slowing everything down, stopping it in parliament for as long as possible, dragging it out and forcing the costs up and up with analysis etc.

    Then when next election comes up they blame the government for incompetence in not having more done and wasting money.

    It is actually quite ingenious and dirty politics 2010 style.
  • More of Turnbull's FUD & C**P:
    "But if you're stuck in traffic or you can't get a train and you're wondering why there's no money invested in that... people before long will be blaming the NBN."

    Actually, many people could be using the NBN to work fom home instead of wasting time & money commuting = less traffic.
  • It's already been said several times - Turnbull continues to demand a fully costed CBA, while at the same time saying that a positive current business case would be "meaningless."

    It is impossible to know and therefore quantify what the NBN usage patterns will look like in say 30 years time, except that they will be vastly greater than today. If a business case today is meaningless, what is the point of the cost and delay that a full CBA would impose?
  • "You greedy TLS shareholders screaming poor me and my shares, really take the cake, eh?...!"

    What is your problem RS ? Why is it that anytime anyone challenges you on your pro-NBN comments, you always come out with that nonsense. You really are a joke, and the one that "takes the cake". Get a life mate !
  • RS has a point. When you buy shares in anything it's like playing lotto, you take the risk and you risk losing money or making money, the only reason why you hear all this bitching now is becasue of Telstras own idiocy so there's no reason why tax payers and internet users should have to suffer because of these greedy and clueless shareholders.
    Hubert Cumberdale
  • A lot of them are, I've noticed the same thing, of course not everyone is but I dont think RS has explicitly said such a thing.
    Hubert Cumberdale
  • The CBA they want done is not costly, it actually won't cost any more of the tax payers money. Its going to be done by the Productivity Commission, which gets a set amount of money each year to do whatever it is assigned to do by the government

    Again this was already mentioned before many times
  • Anyone who criticises Medicare, which can "saves the lives" of those who are unfortunately unable to afford medical treatment otherwise... whilst crying about their own under performing TLS $hare$, IMO, is demonstrating $elfi$h greed...!

    And the only ones who seem to do things like this, are "SOME" TLS shareholders. Sad that these people, expect Australia's comms to revolve around their personal portfolios.

    But just let old Wally go Hubert... Looking at his grammar and his choice of words I think he may be Mike? An old sparring partner of mine who holds a previous grudge from when I responded to his previous criticisms of me, by lambasting his TLS share driven comments and woeful share price (about a year ago)! Nothing changes, eh (well apart from TLS heading south further)...LOL!

    He of course came back with the standard answer... you're a *******, what about the dividend...which certainly helped the correspondence [sic]...!

    So I said, well why not look into selling TLS and buying something like DUE, which at the time was around $1.45 but also paying a handy, 10c (unfranked, admittedly) dividend. As opposed to Telstra then being at $3.60 paying 14c (fully franked).

    He could have sold TLS and bought almost 2.5 DUE for every TLS share.

    Of course he laughed and called me a ******* again, LOL... but who is laughing now (me) and who is the ******* now (him)...!

    DUE - $1.775 - up around 20%
    TLS - $2.77 - down a further 23%

    But yet they still blame everyone, but them self!
  • Ah the old each way bet (just like the other Mr. Contradiction)... LOL...

    When Quigley said .. you can't factor the Telstra payment into the NBN cost - you naysayers said.. BUT the money has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is the taxpayer... then claimed smoke screen, conspiracy, sky is falling down...

    But here and most contradictorily, the same rule apparently doesn't apply...!

    Dear oh dear.

    And those previous figures of yours and the parliament spiel again please!
  • We have seen valuable contributions above from many who are informed on various aspects of the project. We (the shareholders of this country) still have not seen an independent assessment of the project. We have not been given full and fair disclosure. We have still not seen and fully understood the ramifications of the decisions being made or yet to be confirmed. Considering that the FTTH is a noble ''plan'' due process needs to be followed and it is the duty of the government and opposition to ensure that informed consent is received from all citizens of Australia. the voice of the people need to be heard. The release of the business case being undertaken by an organisation that has been paid for, by our money is a welcome gesture on the part of the government. It needs to be explained honestly to the people and their informed consent obtained.
    An independently formulated business plan will provide answers to :
    1. Tangible and non-tangible cost and benefits of establishing a FTTH netowork at a cost presently at 34 billion dollars ie more than 100 million dollars per day contributed by each citizen of Australia over a period of 6 to 8 years.
    2. The advantages and disadvanateges of using Fibre To The Home (FTTH) vs ''alternate'' available and expected technologies being innovated during the next few years.
    3. All other related information to justify this enormous amount in investment of public money. (The largest investment so far)

    We need to acknowledge that a mandate from the Australian people is yet to be obtained regarding the expenditure of an unprecedentd investment belonging to every citizen of Australia.
    It is the duty of the government of the day and all elected representatives to create awareness on all the facts about this project and obtain informed consent from all citizens irrespecftive of political alegiances. This can be in the form of a referendum. The citizens of Australia are the shareholders of the country. The representatives of both parties have not received a clear majority. The will of a clear majority (on this issue) needs to be sought and is vital prior to making the largest investment the Australian government is planning to make and the highest amount of $34 billion which is at least three to five (3-5) times more than the estimated expenditure on FTTH of any other country in the world.
    This is a historical step.
  • Well said!
  • UMIKUMARA, you certainly raise some interesting points, kudos.

    However, governments are elected to make such decisions and the mandate, no matter how slim, is there. It is a bit like when John Howard took the never ever GST to the electorate, won the election (with less than 50% of the vote to Beazley's over 50%) but campaigned in the marginal seats and got across the line.

    In came the GST, and considering our political system, rightly so (even though more people actually voted against it) as PM Howard won and he had the mandate to do so, imo! Same with the NBN, like the Libs and Nats combine votes to form government, so too have Labor and the Independents, giving the NBN a mandate...!

    But although costly, the NBN will in time pay for itself through reselling (by 2034 according to NBN Co) and can later be sold. Plus the copper won't last forever!

    As for alternatives, wireless has been promising for years and still isn't anywhere near fibre... we can't afford to wait forever, for when OR IF, alternate technologies finally come good...! At some stage (which is now, imo) we have to bite the bullet and just do it...!

    But again certainly, some nice points...cheers!