NBN debate overshadows more important issues: Turnbull

NBN debate overshadows more important issues: Turnbull

Summary: Australian Minister of Communications says the creation of an innovation culture has to be the focus.


The fortune of high wage economies, such as Australia's, and of their social security nets is at stake as global competition from lower wage and higher skilled countries grows, according to Australia's Minister of Communications Malcolm Turnbull.

The answer is innovation, he said, but in Australia the debate over the National Broadband Network (NBN) is overshadowing that discussion.

Turnbull told the Korea, Australia, New Zealand Technology Summit in Auckland today that global competition has been amplified by the internet with businesses large, small, and local now facing competition from all over the world.

But while competition has exploded, so too have the opportunities for businesses.

Turnbull cited New Zealand's Xero and Australia's Freelancer.com as examples of how businesses in the region can use such globalisation to their advantage and succeed. He added that consumer demand in emerging markets, which he said is set to triple, is another opportunity.

The minister said Australia's NBN project had been poorly conceived and badly managed. New Zealand, where the government did not assume construction risk, but subsidised the rollout to ensure near universal service, had set the "gold standard" for such projects.

He said while NBN board and management had been changed, the final objective stayed the same, delivering fast broadband access for Australians but using a mix of technologies, not just fibre.

Turnbull said governments can't legislate innovation into existence, but they can help create environment where it can happen.

The role of government is to serve the people, he said. The UK is setting an example of how digital transformation can help achieve that and get simple enquiries and transactions completed easily.

New Zealand and Australia are pursuing similar efforts, he said, singling out the New Zealand government identity service RealMe for special mention, saying its progress is being followed with "great interest".

Governments should not only be digital be default, they should be open by default, he said. Government data can add billions of dollars to GDP and should be freely available in machine readable formats.

Turnbull said Australia suffered from a crowdfunding gap, with just 12 portals for funding compared with the over 300 in the US. He said Australia was looking closely at policies in the New Zealand government's Business Growth Agenda to encourage more crowd funding in Australia.

He added that a key initiative would be to change the tax rules, especially those concerning the taxation of employee share options, which in Australia have been taxed when granted since 2009.


Topics: NBN, Government AU, New Zealand

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  • Yes New Zealand has set the Gold standard, "Fibre To The Home"!

    New Zealand has set the "Gold" standard, the standard Australia was going to have until Mr Fraudband's weird backwardation plans were introduced with the change of Government. Australia is getting the "Lead" standard, a mere revamp of ADSL 2+ where most Australians will now get actual ADSL+ near best speeds.
    FTTN was something Australia should have had 7 or eight years ago, those days have gone and now high bandwidth applications that will be used by the bulk of the population (movie downloads via Xbox and PlayStation) are just entering service and will overwhelm fibre to the node very quickly, even before Mr Fraudband gets a small fraction of his nodes working.
    The great flaw of ADSL is it's asynchronicity fast download and inadequately slow upload, it's going to be very difficult to get 1080p Skype running well on ADSL 2+ the upload is between 1-2Mbps wont run 1080p.
    The biggest problem in Tech today is 3rd world communications infrastructure, Fibre to the home is our biggest need.
    Kevin Cobley
  • Well said Mr Turnbull ... but ...

    "Turnbull said governments can't legislate innovation into existence, but they can help create environment where it can happen."

    Well said Mr Turnbull, but it begs the question ... "Why have you curbed innovation by forcing us to an inferior product?"

    You have not created an environment where innovation can happen. You have only destroyed the plans for that environment, limiting that innovation.
  • It looks like...

    ...Mr. Turnbull has decided that NBN is an issue he can't win and is now trying to change the subject. I think he'll be handing in his resignation in the next six months or so and retiring from politics at the next dissolution, if not sooner.
    John L. Ries
    • I still think...

      ...Mr. Turnbull's appointment as Communications Minister might well have been a clever Machiavellian move on Tony Abbot's part; the theory being that whoever got the job would be so politically damaged that it would be impossible to challenge Mr. Abbot for the Liberal Party leadership (noting that Mr. Turnbull is a former Liberal Party leader). The last time I so speculated, someone responded that Mr. Abbot wasn't smart enough to think of that sort of maneuver, but politicians are often smarter than they appear (regardless of country or party).
      John L. Ries
  • Why innovate when governemnt funding is a fix ....

    Changing the tax rules would help but the bigger issue is don't have a government stepping in to strand private investors investment. This NBN fiasco is the prime case by which Australia's support of entrepreneurs is judged - pull the carpet from under them. So not only are we now stranded with a backward FttP system at a time when Australian firms were leading the world in FttP innovation, we now have a reputation as a country that does not give a toss about private investment.
    • I wonder then what you think of Turnbull's NBN

      The American broadband situation shows us the realities of imagining that the free market will somehow overcome the problems of trying to endlessly innovate a natural monopoly, that is, we see pockets of fibre monopolies that overcharge; the consumer, and the economy, is not naturally served by having cancerous growths of expensive infrastructure.

      And if the World was laughing at us for trying to build a nationwide fibre backbone, I can only imagine that they are now dying of laughter, watching us instead spend an equivalent amount of money on infrastructure that will be obsolete before it is finished.
    • oh ffs Duck...

      ... give it up, your neocon blatherings are getting almost morbidly predictable, the 'free' market has screwed us and will continue to do so...
      • oops...

        ... disregard above, keyboard in mouth syndrome, apologies Duck...
  • Nice cherry picking Malcolm

    You almost sound believable...
    • ...because he's had so much practice at making rubbish sound good and vice versa.

      Pity it's all P&W. The NBN debate is overshadowing other issues because, unlike Mr Turnbull, most people think that the real NBN should be the highest priority in communications.
  • Its hard to be innovative on near dial-up speeds MR Turnbull.

    The internet is a tool that helps people become Innovative. Not having access to the correct tools stifles innovation. Thank you for doing that.

    Broadband was innovated long long ago, and we should have put it in practice long ago.
  • The Minister for Industrial Sabotage

    What a disingenuous, duplicitous AH. Turnbull co-opts middle left language to disarm critics and dissenters, seeming to show an understanding of broad community values and concerns and sharing their goals, while simply taking a different approach to implementation. He does this to seem reasonable, and indeed if you look at feedback from many who are fundamentally opposed to his policies many still excuse Turnbull from his own actions.

    But you have it around the wrong way - you judge people on their actions, not their empty words. Turnbull is an excellent politician insofar as his prowess with language and ability to persuade and appear trustworthy. It is highly unfortunate that he is one of the most dangerous and destructive ministers we have ever seen. The LNP is running a kleptocracy: their objective is to dismantle as much of federal infrastructure as possible and transfer it into private hands for as little as possible, while creating a regulatory environment that is as friendly to specific wealthy private interests as possible. Conservativism has always been about transferring as much public wealth into private hands as possible, and this government is outdoing all historical examples. We are truly a country under the control of powerful thieves.

    If the LNP NBN was truly the best path for the nation, why has it been necessary for Turnbull to stack NBN Co, the strategic review and the 'Independent panel' performing the CBA with personal associates, Telstra and Foxtel employees and yes-men with a public history of opposition to the ALP, the original NBN and FTTP? If the MTM and FTTN argument was so strong, why wouldn't actually independent experts come to that conclusion on their own?

    Fact: FTTN will cost more to build than FTTP because you have to buy the copper from Telstra.

    Fact: FTTN will cost more to operate because you have billions in copper maintenance costs and 30,000 nodes (more like 70,000 if they expect it to actually work) will take a great deal of power to operate.

    Fact: FTTN will generate less revenue because uptake will be lower as the product is inferior, and because it lacks the performance of FTTP it isn't possible to offer the higher revenue upper tier plans, completely wiping out the profit potential that lead to the positive ROI model of the original NBN.

    So if the NBN is not profitable, if it costs more to operate and won't achieve positive ROI, the LNP government will be free to claim it is a tremendous drain on the budget and thus should be sold off to a private enterprise who can magically make it more efficient. Queue drastically underpriced gift to Telstra of the new backhand Transit network for a fraction of what it would have cost them to build - the rest of the fibre is just an added bonus. And the Australian public will once again be screwed for access to infrastructure they paid for originally anyway, but this time the root will last hundreds of years.
    • Corrections

      backhand = backhaul
      root = rort

      Stupid = autocorrect :-/
  • As Usual

    Gotta hand it to Malcolm, he has an outstanding ability to Turn it all into Bull-dust.
  • NBN Co have solved the unsolvable!

    I didn't know that NBN Co, under Malcolm's leadership, had overcome the inherent upload limitations of FTTN and HFC!? Wow!!!

    After all, reliable uploads would have to be one of the biggest barriers to data-based innovation, so that must be why Turnbull has steered the NBN away from that wasteful fibre; because he's figured out how to overcome this problem with NBN's new direction.

  • I think the pathetic reality is...

    ... that this tech turncoat, who sold us out with the emasculated NBN as badly as his mate, the fat controller is attempting to do with the TPP, actually might believe the complete garbage he continues to spew out about FTTN et al... After all, you can only parrot Abbottspeak and have cocktails with your old mates on your 'independent' review committees, together with the absence of any ego filter, for a certain time before you become completely self delusional, a stage which I think we have now reached...