Google is an NBN conspirator: Turnbull

Google is an NBN conspirator: Turnbull

Summary: Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has labelled companies such as Google and Yahoo, as well as network vendors, as "conspirators against the taxpayer" for praising the $35.9 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) project.

TOPICS: Google, Broadband, NBN

Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has labelled companies such as Google and Yahoo, as well as network vendors, as "conspirators against the taxpayer" for praising the $35.9 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) project.

Malcolm Turnbull

(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

At the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network Conference in Sydney today, Turnbull again reiterated his belief that there were no applications that would require the high bandwidth on offer from a fibre to the home (FttH) network such as the NBN. Turnbull said that network vendors and online companies were in a "conspiracy against the taxpayer", because they were talking up a network that they ultimately didn't have to pay for.

"Let me tell you who the conspirators are. They are the vendors, who want to sell lots of kit for the NBN. They'll tell you privately they think it's bonkers, but they want to sell the kit. There are the over-the-top people like Google and Yahoo and media companies," he said, comparing their attitude to that of trucking magnate Lindsay Fox if he was to announce the Coalition government was building a free eight-lane highway just for trucks.

"He would say 'Malcolm, you are a nation-building visionary. God bless you'," Turnbull joked. "But what we forget is that we are the taxpayers and there are huge opportunity costs.

"The reason why there is an enthusiasm from a lot of sectors is that they think it is not their money. It's our money, believe me. The only people in this debate that are standing up for the taxpayer is the Coalition."

Turnbull reiterated his proposal for a scaled-back roll-out with greater telco participation for the Coalition's broadband policy, and said that the government doesn't care and was "utterly reckless" in spending money. He said that everyone in the industry had a vested interest.

"Everybody comes to Canberra with their eyes on your taxes, and somebody has got to stand up for those taxes and somebody has got to stand up for consumers."

While Turnbull argued for the government to have a lesser role in network infrastructure, Greens communications spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam said that keeping the NBN in public hands, rather than privatising it as planned, would lead to greater transparency for the NBN.

"I know it drives him bonkers, but we get [NBN CEO Mike] Quigley in front of budget estimates committees, we get him on the joint committee that Mr Turnbull and I are both on, and they've got to answer questions in a way that the directors of Telstra or other private providers don't have to."

Ludlam laid out some thoughts as to what sort of applications he believed may require the bandwidth offered by the NBN.

"I think Google augmented reality, cyberspace starting to bleed across into the real world, which takes quite a substantial processing power. I think that merging of worlds is interesting, a little bit terrifying and maybe points some of the way as to what people will use this network for."

Turnbull said that Ludlam's comments had reminded him of first seeing Rocky Horror Picture Show.

"'But when worlds collide,' said George Pal to his bride, 'I'm going to give you some terrible thrills'," Turnbull recited.

"Of course, the chorus is in response, as it should have been in response to Scott [Ludlam]'s remarks, 'science fiction'," he said. "And that basically is what the absurdity of what we are contemplating here today. To spend without any cost-benefit analysis, without any effort to ask if there is a faster, cheaper [and] more cost-effective way to improve broadband services for all Australians."

Topics: Google, Broadband, 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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  • FFS Mal, I always thought you were PM material but after this absolute nonsense, you prove that you deserve no better than the back bench.
    • more like Malcolm belongs on the garden bench.. or maybe he could be orange boy for Tony
      When will these politicans stop trying to score cheap political points with the NBN? What worries me most is I'm sure Julia won't get in next election so I hope the NBN is past a point of no return by then.... Pull ur fingers out Fujitsu, Service Stream & Silcar!
  • First Malcom says there isn't the content to support the case for an NBN, then when the content providers *do* start to get on-board and start planning to provide the content that will make use of the NBN's bandwidth, Malcom turns around and brands them "conspirators". Nice one Malcom.
    As for 'wasting' tax payers money, the $30Billion+ blow-out in the cost of the Coalition's "Direct Action" plan (on Climate Change) alone would almost pay for the entire NBN! How's that for "fiscally-irresponsible"???
    • You might also like to explain how the NBN will attract enough customers as I don't see a rush on sign-ups for the highest speed. Given the state of the economy with everyone chucking their money into savings wouldnt it be worth considering alternative solutions to anything this government spends money on. For example the great deal with Malaysia - for every boat person we take back 5 and given them $230 million. Now we cant send anyone the deals off isn't it? Nah! We it will come out of our pockets so no worries Australia. Look at the whole picture - Question everything this government does
      Question Everything-48783
      • You are only half right. Question everything any politician does.
      • The NBN business plan actually assumes more than half will sign up to the slowest speed initially, and over time that entry level speed will become so unusable (due to websites increasing, think what Google looked like 5 years ago) that more will upgrade, their financials already take into account the majority of people not caring about the top speeds - I think the estimates for top speed (1Gbps) are like 1% of customers only and they don't even factor it in for the first 2 or 3 years - but those will pay for a huge portion of the bills, it will be businesses and extreme power users only on those plans. Consider the difference between AVC's is usually just $3, there isn't much difference if everyone sits on 12Mbps or everyone on 25Mbps. 25Mbps is more than what practically everyone in Australia gets already.
      • i iike those Electronic Merchant Systems, installed in malls, they make shopping so faster.
  • No applications that require this bandwith, Turnbullshit 1)video on demand, bypassing Pay TV and it's overbundled products 2)video telephony 3) online education services requiring video, saving vast amounts of money in University/Technical facility constructions and staffing and transport/housing costs for pupils. 4)online Medical consultations cutting facility costs and patient transport.
    These are the applications that I have thought of in about 5 minutes give me a couple of days I could fill all the bandwith that's technically posssible. The NBN is going to save more money than is being spent, it's about the same annual expenditure on the baby bonus, or about half the amount of negative gearing, and about the same as home construction grants, and about 15% of the amounts of monies building roads, never here whining about productivity studies or cost benefit analysis for road expenditures!!!!
    Turnbull and the Coalitions conspiracy against better communications for All Australians, that's the only conspiracy!!!!
    Kevin Cobley
    • While you compile the list please don't forget to provide your valued estimates of what all of these wonderful things will cost the householder. The NBN already has developed an entry level with limited speed, limited download and just like the current market we will pay more for what speed and what capacity we use but with one difference - the competition keeps it interesting. Also dont forget the whole idea is to build the HBN and then sell it to private owners leading to your 'WHAT MORE TELSTRA MONOPOLY'
      Question Everything-48783
      • The householder will pay for the services they require. If they only want a phone line, that's what they will pay for. If they want to download a lot of content, then isn't it reasonable that they pay for it? In fact this is one of the Coalitions arguments, that not everyone needs super fast speeds.

        If you believe we will all pay more then you are wrong. There are various areas in Australia where there is no compitition, and broadband is considerably more expensive than the NBN's basic service, yet we are still paying for it.

        What the NBN will deliver is a reliable service where retailers can offer numerous services which include cloud products. As we require more flexibility with our data demands, compitition will increase to cater for that demand. No longer will we be stuck with a single provider, we can choose several.
  • I stopped reading at "the only people in this debate that are standing up for the taxpayer is the coalition". This really belongs in a satire section to give that statement to print. Still, despite his lack of vision, if Malcolm were to depose Tony as leader of the opposition, there would be no stopping the coalition.
  • Interestingly and I am not a gamer, but I was reading an article the other day where it was suggested that the Sony makes as much revenue from the Playstation as the rest of their products combined?

    So some may scoff at gaming etc, but Sony certainly don't!
    • Good point. I'm no gamer either (my last jeu d'addiction was arcade Galaga in the 1980s), but I'm quite comfortable with the idea of gaming being a multi-billion dollar industry - bigger than Hollywood, isn't that right? - and therefore worthy of some respect.
  • Yes, Malcolm. Google doesn't really understand the value of the internet.

    When you don't like what they say, they become just "a vested interest".

    I could set up a boutique home delivery company tomorrow -- let's say "gourmet vegan meals made fresh from organic produce, from our kitchen to your door in 30 minutes". Or whatever. Now, exactly how much of my startup capital will I need to allocate for investment in the well-maintained roads that I need to meet my high speed delivery schedule? Oh, that's right. NONE.

    But I'll pay taxes as I go along, and fuel levy and on-road charges; and as my business expands, I'll be employing a whole bunch of extra cooks and drivers, and giving them jobs, and they'll pay taxes on their earnings. And right there, just like any other small business, there's the benefit to society. Sure, I'll benefit too -- but then, isn't this sort of thing EXACTLY what your party stands for, Mr Turnbull?
    • If roads were built by private companies then they would be built more cheaply and there would be more roads to go around, either that, or money that was being wasted on roads would be more cost effectively invested elsewhere.
      • If all roads were built and maintained by private companies, assuming you live on a side street and not a main road, your street would be a dirt road as it wouldn't be profitable to build and maintain. If you think private companies willingly build things for the good of the people, then you need to rethink your understanding of the driving force behind private companies
      • Yes. Very good. Now please show me an example - ANY example - from a community somewhere in the world where publicly accessible roads have been built and maintained fully by private companies. Not with government subsidies, not by private firms under contract to government instrumentalities -- FULLY private.

        Show me this libertarian paradise, and we'll talk. But we both know that there is no actual evidence to back up your assertions. They are, just like idealistic communism or any other utopianism, pure fantasy.
      • More like if roads were built by private companies you'd go through a toll every 5 minutes.
        • Though this may be the case, if the government passed on the savings from no longer building and maintaining roads ala tax cuts, it would be a user pays system, just like the every other industry should be.
          Drive more = pay more. Download more = pay more.
  • Didn't you know, Malcolm Turnbull knows more about the internet than Google