Labor NBN obsession crippled digital economy talk: Turnbull

Labor NBN obsession crippled digital economy talk: Turnbull

Summary: New Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull says it is possible to enjoy the benefits of the digital economy without having to possess a fibre connection to the premises.

TOPICS: NBN, Government AU

The rhetoric of the former Australian federal government, which could be summarised as "a noun, a verb, NBN", held back the way that it approached the digital economy, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said today.

In an address in Sydney this morning, Turnbull stressed that the incoming Abbott government would be following a mantra that the benefits of the digital economy are not coupled with the National Broadband Network (NBN).

The minister said that after embarking on such a large infrastructure project with minimal analysis, everything said by the former Labor government about the digital economy was framed in a way that would look to justify the NBN.

"The government would say 'e-commerce, fantastic! This will be enabled by the NBN', 'Small Australian butcher shops in Hobart exporting meat across Australia, enabled by the NBN', so it was as though none of the benefits of the internet would be available to you, other than through the government's own National Broadband Network.

"And that was always just so much nonsense.

"More discerning people recognise that, but in a way it crippled the way the [former] Australian government approached this issue."

Turnbull said that one aspect of the digital economy that businesses are being forced to address is the increasing use of mobile devices by customers, many of whom are "living on their smartphones".

"I certainly live on my smartphone, I am a tragic in that respect," he said.

"There is where, of course, saying 'none of the joys and opportunities of the internet are available until you get the NBN, when you get a fibre cable to your house' is just so wrong-headed, because it is out there happening now in the wireless platforms, which do require a lot of fibre in the backhaul, and is becoming more important than ever."

A report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics last week showed that while mobile data is seeing the largest growth of any form of connectivity, it still pales in comparison to the amount of data downloaded via fixed-line connections.

In the three months until June this year, mobile data accounted for 19.6 petabytes, while data downloaded via fixed-line broadband totalled 630 petabytes.

Looking at the success of public transit applications that are able to use recently opened government datasets, Turnbull said that the government should set an example for digital engagement through policy, such as the Coalition's previously announced digital mailbox.

"We really should get to a point where, before too long, all of citizens' engagement with government can be affected digitally. That's not how it has to be, but that should be feasible," he said.

"We are going to offer a free electronic mailbox to all citizens, which will be, if they choose, the destination for all of their government correspondence."

Turnbull said that the platform would be available for free to state and local governments.

Topics: NBN, Government AU


Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

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  • Jesus

    The man who practically invented the internet in Australia is now going to provide a free 'electronic mailbox' to every citizen.

    When all citizens have access to one of these new 'online mailboxes', a true 'digital economy' will be born. Citizens will be able to sign up to government correspondence and maybe down the track, even promotions and updates from private firms.

    Fancy that. I guess we don't need that NBN anymore. Lucky we've got the adults back in charge.
    • Really?

      Not only did Malcolm Turnbull invent the internet, but the Lib's invent email. Adult's in charge? Seem more like out of touch senile senior citizens to me.
  • Stop the copper NBN

    It's better to have nothing than a Node-to-copper NBN that this politician proposes.

    It's a rotten place-holder that will prevent the future installation of a decent 100% fiber NBN.

    He doesn't explain that fiber's symmetrical data will allow individuals to enter markets they have not been able to before. Fast upload speed allows people to work for companies around the planet. His copper-node arguments don't stack up.
  • Speaking of nonsense no one does it better than Turnbull. Illustrated perfectly with his talk of "wireless platforms". We've heard this sort of garbage from Turnbull before and it would hold more weight if he didn't come up with a plan to waste $30+ billion relying on a fixed line network made of obsolete copper.
    Hubert Cumberdale
  • NBN VS Wireless

    The thing people like Mr Turnbull fails to understand that wireless networks have limits and the more users there are the slower the speed gets. Having fibre to the premises would give homes and businesses truly high speed internet which would allow for more business transactions to occur (because it is so much faster and more reliable). I currently have ADSL 2+ with a quotes maximum speed of 24Gb/sec but due to my distance from the exchange I am lucky to get 1GB/sec speeds. I was excited about the Labour NBN policy. I am despondent now that Malcolm is taking my hope of fast internet away!
    • Why?

      If you took the time to understand the policy, you would expect that you are now more likely to get faster internet sooner. With a node in your street you'll have only a short run of copper giving you the speed you can't get now, alternatively if the copper in your street is shot, you'll get fibre. Surely this is better than the situation we were very likely headed into under Labors NBN policy, 10 years down the track there would've been the fibre haves and the fibre have nots, you may have been one of the have nots.

      "There will also be established areas where high maintenance costs or the condition of the copper renders FTTN unattractive and the best alternative is FTTP" - from the Liberals NBN policy document.
      • Still believe in Santa?

        LOL, thanks for the laugh.
  • At least...

    ""We are going to offer a free electronic mailbox to all citizens, which will be, if they choose, the destination for all of their government correspondence.""

    At least he's had one good idea....
  • Yes, quite tragic

    However its the taxpayer that funds his obsession with his smartphone so he has no concerns about Bill Shock at end of month,
    The way he & his boss use their expense accounts for a free ride is disgusting.
    Burt then its more about just who he determines will benefit most from the Digital Economy.
    With FTTH its the users.
    With FTTN it's the shareholders.
    Typical fare from the Merchant Banker who became rich by 'inventing our internet'.
  • Wireless.

    Lol Turnbull is a moron in sheep's clothing. So I can now see that Optus, Telstra and the like are going to give smartphone / tablet users 250 to 300GB data plans a month for $50 as part of their plan. As that is what my home plan over fixed wire is.
    Turnbull has no idea of what he is talking about thinking wireless is the way of the future. Just wait till we all have a wi fi tower on every street corner to take advantage of his wireless obsession.
    He appoints a person that ran a phone company 20 years ago as boss of NBN, times have moved on. The inmates are now running the asylum.
  • Oh my Dog

    Given the reporting of the address Turnbull engaged in making making assertions, provided no form of substantiation, and then suggested that his subjective preferences were validation. Simply appalling.
    As for his 'selling point', that the govt would provide "free individual electronic mail boxes .... if they choose" - if that is the scope of his understanding of the benefits of a digital economy then Dog help us.

    Turnbull is nothing more than ignorant. Either that or an unethical snake oil salesman.