Impassioned start for Turnbull in comms job

Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has come out swinging in his new portfolio, slamming Labor's National Broadband Network (NBN) and filter projects and describing himself as "an internet junkie".
Written by Renai LeMay, Contributor

Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has come out swinging in his new portfolio, slamming Labor's National Broadband Network (NBN) and filter projects and describing himself as "an internet junkie".

"I am a notorious internet junkie. I love it," Turnbull told the ABC's PM radio program this afternoon. Turnbull was famously an investor in one of Australia's first major internet service providers — OzEmail — from which he made a fortune in the late 1990's. And the MP also carries around an iPad, which replaced his Amazon Kindle.

"I have been involved in the internet since 1994, so I'm very committed to it, and I'm very committed to the amazing things we can do with technology," he added.

However, Turnbull also said, referring to the NBN, that what he wasn't committed to was "wasting tens of billions of dollars of taxpayers' money".

Turnbull said that everything he had seen of Labor's NBN project demonstrated that the financial investment in the effort could not be justified. He highlighted the NBN Implementation Study produced by consulting firms KPMG and McKinsey and the low levels of take-up of NBN services so far in Tasmania as examples.

According to the MP, the NBN would eventually be worth between a half and a quarter of the $43 billion total estimated cost of the network.

In a separate statement, Turnbull called for Labor to put together a cost-benefit analysis and business plan for the project.

"At the heart of this issue is not a question of technologies, but a question of democracy itself. What price democracy, accountability, transparency or the new 'sunshine' era of Federal Parliament if a $43 billion investment can be embarked on by government without any financial analysis capable of demonstrating the money will be well spent?" he asked.

"Senator Conroy has not yet been honest with the Australian people about the financial implications for the NBN of Labor's negotiations with the independents. He must do so now."

Turnbull claimed the new roll-out schedule for the NBN, agreed with several of the independent MPs who helped Labor form government, would also hurt residents in outer metropolitan areas, as it would see fibre rolled in from the bush instead of out from the cities. In addition, Turnbull said, this approach would "greatly increase" the amount the government would need to invest in the network.

On the matter of whether Telstra should be separated into wholesale and retail arms, Turnbull said many people had argued for a separation. But he said it was not necessary, as long as there was an appropriate access regime.

The Coalition's own broadband plan was widely slammed by sections of the telecommunications and business communities when it was released during the election. On radio, Turnbull said it wasn't for him to comment on whether it wasn't sold well, but he described the Coalition's plan was being "certainly superior to the NBN".


Many consider Labor's internet filter project dead, with both the Coalition and the Greens having vowed to block the proposal in the Senate. However, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has committed to pushing ahead with the project.

Turnbull has previously pilloried the filter project, holding a special forum during the election to address the issue. He reiterated his comments today to ABC PM.

"I am absolutely and utterly opposed to it. It really is a bad idea in all respects," he said. "I have nothing good to say about the filter. The best thing the government could do is drop it."

Turnbull said the filter would slow down the internet and create a false sense of security where parents believed it was safe to let their children use the internet without supervision. He also said that the filter would not catch much of the objectionable content distributed online.

He was also questioned on whether he would ever challenge Opposition Leader Tony Abbott for the top Liberal role.

"I support the leader," Turnbull said. "I'm very happy being communications shadow and I'm delighted to have that role."

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