tip off

Conroy comes knocking

Another day, another volley of outlandish propaganda from The Australian. Be more specific, you say! Which particular war — on Labor, on the ABC, on bloggers, on the Greens? No, it’s the war on the NBN, with another series of articles slamming the roll out today.

That’s in addition to not one but two furious reactions to being called on its campaign by Stephen Conroy, with a comment piece by Matt ‘I don’t do comment pieces’ Franklin today and a hard-hitting, no-holds barred interview yesterday of editor Chris Mitchell by the unfortunate Geoff Elliott, in which Mitchell offered the stinging retort to Conroy: ‘I know you are, but what am I?’

Beneath the cover of sanctimony and lies, however, there was some furious rowing back going on at our very own right-wing version of The Onion.

A critical part of the attack on the NBN has been around the idea of households being forced to use the network and compelled to spend large amounts of money to do so. The Australian ran a story just before the election claiming it would cost households $3000 to connect to the NBN. Conroy has been complaining this week about The Australian claiming it would cost $6000. Today, the paper ran a response denying it had ever used the higher figure.

The Oz is right. It never used $6000. That would be another News Limited publication, The Daily Telegraph, where noted technology guru Piers Akerman claimed it would “cost every household between $6000 and $10,000”.

Conroy should gets his facts right about which News Ltd outlet is lying through its teeth before he attacks them.

Not merely is the $6000 figure complete rubbish, so is the $3000 figure. How do we know? Well, The Oz admitted it today. Under cover of its attack on Conroy, its latest line is that wiring will cost $400 a room. You’d have to wire up the bedrooms, the garage and all the toilets to get anywhere close to $3000, let alone Piers’ $10,000. In fact it gets cheaper the further you read. The actual figure is later given as between $250 and $400. Eventually, it’s down to $100 a port for new houses.

But even those figures don’t stack up. As Mike Quigley pointed out at Estimates on Tuesday night, NBN users in Tasmania are using the network without any upgrading of their in-home wiring. They’re using their existing routers, wi-fi or blue cables. To take advantage of very high speeds, yes, you’ll need to upgrade your wiring and switches, or have your ISP do it for you. Or, more realistically, you’ll upgrade next time you buy some new hardware like a PC or a router.

But The Australian’s agenda is to suggest you’ll be compelled to spend money, when you won’t.

That’s but one line of attack on the NBN. There are some recurring elements. “Wage blowout threat to NBN” it screeched on September 10, claiming the NBN budget would blow out by nearly $1.5 billion due to labour shortages. One of its sources was James Tinslay, head of the electrical sector employers’ group the National Electrical and Communications Association. Tinslay was heavily involved in the housing insulation program saga, as NECA had given early warnings to the government about it, but he is also a persistent critic of the government’s IR system and a go-to man for The Australian when it wants a quote critical of the Fair Work laws. NECA, after all, is a long-term foe of the Electrical Trades Union.

Tinslay was also the source for the $3000 claim. That was the price, he claimed, of what the journalists concerned called a “standard retrofit” to use the NBN.

So who was the source for today’s new claim that it would only be $400 a room, a figure entirely at odds with Tinslay’s? Why, step forward … James Tinslay. He is quoted today saying “the cost of installing cable to various rooms in a house would cost between $250 and $400 a port”. Why the difference from a couple of months ago? The Australian doesn’t say.

To be fair to News Ltd, it isn’t alone in peddling nonsense about the NBN. Fairfax’s Georgina Robinson and Ben Grubb managed to trump the efforts of the national broadsheet yesterday with a story now entitled ‘Minister threatens to use law to force people on NBN if states revolt’. On Fairfax’s Tech page, it goes by the lurid headline ‘I’ll force NBN on everyone’. That, of course, is the handiwork of the sub-editors, not the journalists concerned. But Conroy, according to the story itself, would use federal law to “force people on to the NBN”.

Conroy in fact has been making clear all week that people can decline to be connected to the network, even after the copper network is removed. He told Estimates on Tuesday night: “So people can opt to say, ‘no, when the copper’s taken away, we don’t want you to put in a piece of fibre’. People will be able to make that choice. They can go purely mobile now or fixed wireless.” Conroy’s office confirmed this morning that remains the case.

Still, presumably that’s not as interesting as the image of Conroy making that midnight knock on the door to barge in to your home, drill a hole in your wall and take $400 out of your wallet. Or $3000. Or $6000. Or $10,000.

  • 1
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Excellent piece Bernard! You are talented gentleman sir!

    As an IT person I’ve been getting so sick of the absolute nonsense talked about the NBN. I know very few people with their houses wired currently, so the vast majority will do as they do now and just have a cable coming into a port on the wall and plug their existing router into that. A fibre-to-copper connector if you want to hook up an existing LAN is around $100.

    The fact that what’s outside your house will be fibre to replace the nineteenth century copper is pretty-much irrelevant to what is inside. However what you will get is massively increased bandwidth, reliability, performance and technical longevity. (On reliability, copper is notorious for electrical interference, corrosion, grounding problems and of course lightning strikes).

    One of the biggest threats is to terrestrial transmission of TV, as this will become redundant. So that’s probably where the vested interest is in rubbishing the NBN.

  • 2
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately the majority of people do no understand Technology. They are happy USING the internet, but they do not like going out of their comfort zone.

    I have no doubt at all The Australian banks their articles on this one simple fact. As soon as you mention a concept which is poorly understood, and add some sort of a cost to it, people panic.

    Anyone who works in IT knows the amazing benefits of the NBN, and why it is so expensive. If I tried to explain that to my grandmother for example, she’d say “HUH?”

  • 3
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    It’s stock standard stuff from the Australian, say something long enough and it will becaome the truth, and even when it is proven to be false smear the author of the proof to be nothing but a labor stooge (even if they are the treasury secretary, head of defence, nobel laureate or head of the world bank) and pay for your own report showing whatever you want.
    Their other great trick is to have an anti labor headline and first 2 paragraphs and then balance it up at the end. This allows them to claim to be balanced when they know most people don’t read that far, or if they do they have made up their minds by then.

  • 4
    David Sanderson
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    An area man claimed today that an Australian senator (aka “the cable guy”) dug a hole down the length of his street.

    When approached the senator told the area man that “I want to take fibre into every house”. When the area man told the senator that he was already eating enough fibre inside and outside his house the senator reportedly stared menacingly at the area man, through big black glasses, and threatened to “Come back later and make you pay $300” if he didn’t get the fibre into his house today.

    The area man reported the incident to the police but they never turned up to investigate the matter “because”, they said, “we have better thing to do”.

  • 5
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t that a coincidence - in Tasmania “they’re using their existing routers” to communicate with the outside world, and up there in “The Emerald City of Oz” they’re using “their pre-existing rooters” too, for the same thing?

  • 6
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Kakariko - it is just not technology/NBN, the RSPT/MMRT, the ETS basically all mjor reforms are complicated but get boiled down into small negative stories that get repeated Ad nauseum.

  • 7
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Klewso - maybe we should explain for the benefit of Australians that the correct standard English pronunciation of “router” is “rooter” (as in route 66).

  • 8
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I should admit that I learned my lesson the hard way. Soon after arriving from England I was taking part in a discussion of networking infrastructure for a new building, and suggested that for small workgroups we should install baby routers - but due my English heritage and local ignorance pronounced this as ‘baby rooters’. I couldn’t at first understand why everyone fell apart in hysterical laughter. One wag responded ‘yes, we’ve got a few of those in Australia too!’

  • 9
    Holden Back
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Just leave my Intertubes alone!

  • 10
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    re: baby routers. This was an accepted technical term at the time for small 4-port routing hubs in a network.

    After the wag’s retort, someone responded ‘and most of them work for the Catholic church!”

  • 11
    Rush Limbugh
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I literally love how BK and Crikey have been calling out the Aus for months now…and not a single F*#K is given by the Australian.

    Must have a serious readership BK-Haters gonna hate, but unfortunatly nobody cares what you think.

  • 12
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    !. The NBN will not earn a commercial rate of return (Estimates COmmittee) so will it earn enough to pay its loans and something to its equity holders?

    2, I can opt out but I will not be able to have landline access seems to be the bottom line.

    3. $100/month seems to be the price but does this include the ISP costs?

    4 What proportion pay $100/month now where this gives access to higher broadband speeds

    5We pay out of work people to move to where employment is. Would it be cheaper to pay people needing higher broadband speeds to move to wherethe broadband speeds can be provided commercially?

  • 13
    David Sanderson
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Taust, you’ve been reading the Australian or, more likely, the Tele, for too long.

  • 14
    David Sanderson
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    The NBN is likely to severely damage the commercial viability of pay TV. Murdoch is a 25% shareholder in Foxtel. Is that a part-explanation for the hostility?

  • 15
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how you can call an article where you interview YOUR OWN EDITOR (and nobody else) “unbiased” reporting?

  • 16
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Taust - reread post 1.

    NBN is the modern equivalent of deciding to put tarmac on roads instead of having dirt tracks. I believe the benefits have enormously outweighed the costs.

  • 17
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    On the pronunciation of the word “router”, the Macquarie Dictionary notes “(say ‘rowtuh)” for Australian English, even though it notes that “route” is “(say rooht)” with the “Chiefly US and Computers Pronunciation of route” as “(say rowt)”. I’d include the IPA characters if Crikey’s publishing system would cooperate. In my experience, “(say ‘rootuh)” would be a UK pronunciation only.

    It’s not really a matter of copying US pronunciation. I picked up the habit of “(say ‘rowtuh)” and the “(say rowt)” pronunciation of route” to avoid confusion. A route” is a path for directing traffic through the internets. “Root” is for Unix and Linux systems the master user, like “administrator” in Windows. Imagine a sentence along the lines of: “You need root access to change the route.”

  • 18
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    I do believe attacks like these will convince Mr Conroy to join with the Greens on News Limited.
    News Limited is doing its level best to get that Media restructure happening. When you have been campaigning against a party that helps hold the Balance of Power in Two Houses of Parliament. It would seem strategic not to piss off the Communications Minister.

  • 19
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Fibre is infinitely preferable to copper for a large-scale network infrastructure.

    Copper cables will need to be replaced after maybe 20 years (excluding faults, accidents and ‘acts of God’ like lightning.) Fibre will last at least double that time.

    Also if you measure cost per unit of bandwidth, fibre is massively cheaper than copper.

    Here’s a useful tutorial on the subject -


    As I said before, NBN is like putting tarmac on a dirt road, or installing centralised sewage systems. You want to stay on a dirt road? or not be connected to mains sewerage?

    Did anyone demand detailed cost-benefit-analysis for these innovations of the way to our modern lifestyle?

  • 20
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    You say router, I say rooter, let’s call the whole thing off.

  • 21
    mook schanker
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the intelligent contribution Taust.

    1. Do hospitals, schools, passenger rail or roads generally have a commercial rate of return? Or a return at all for that matter…

    2. You want to opt out and also not have landline access, anything else you want? VOIP phone too crap for you? Bugger it, just go wireless and stick your fingers up to the rest of us who want NBN….

    3. What is a monthly fee if it’s not for a provider? An “administration fee”?

    4. Go read the Australian they have all the latest facts and figures.

    5. Stay off the space cakes…

  • 22
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    This was an accepted technical term at the time for small 4-port routing hubs in a network.
    After the wag’s retort, someone responded ‘and most of them work for the Catholic church!”
    Solicitors London

  • 23
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Bernard Keane, I don’t know about the particular cost breakdowns, but you’re blurring a number of different claims together to try to show they’re hopelessly confused.

    - The ultimate tax bill from each household, in the event that private investors decline to buy up a project for which a cost-benefit-analysis is “not applicable”;

    - The fee for actually using the service once it becomes available;

    - The auxiliary costs of buying new hardware to use the fibre connection.

    They are, of course, hopelessly confused. As are we all. As is the government. But that’s no reason to have any sort of analysis of whether this is the only way, or the most efficient way, of bringing next generation internet to Australians.

  • 24
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Freecountry - read the previous posts and do a bit of simple research please!

    - Copper last around 20 years at most and then needs to be replaced. Much sooner if affected by corrosion, flooding of conduits, lightning strikes or electrical interference.

    - Fibre offers massive advantages in speed, reliability, longevity and bandwidth.

    - Fibre is massively cheaper than copper per unit of bandwidth. Even more so when considering longer-term maintenance.

    As I said before, do you want a dirt track outside your house or a tarmac road?

    The “auxiliary costs of buying new hardware to use the fibre connection” are less than $100, and maybe nothing. The “fee for using the service” is likely to be the same as the fee for the existing service, of the fees you pay to use the road outside your house.

    At least do us the decency of reading what has been previously posted.

  • 25
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Taking another well-rooted route, anyone remember Ruta Lee?

  • 26
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Free country, the NBN is cables, it is not a provider.

    Why don’t we stay with carrier pigeons hey? That will suit the OZ and their deranged ramblings.

    And taust, what are you on about.

    The only thing that is happening is the old copper wire is being rolled up and new state of the art, long lasting and upgradeable fibre is being rolled out to replace it.

    Why in god’s name you people are so ignorant and snowed so easily is beyond my comprehension.

  • 27
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Klewso - maybe Young Boozer is well-routed?


  • 28
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    One of the silliest things they have written is that phones can’t be used during thunderstorms, it is already recommended by the companies not to use phones during wild storms anyway so what on earth are the drivelling on about.

  • 29
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Sherperdmarilyn re NBN is cables - exactly. And that is why the current legislation to separate Telstra infrastructure from retail is so important. The people that build and maintain the roads shouldn’t have a monopoly on running the buses as well.

    Also, if you get a lightning strike on your copper Telstra cables it can fry all the equipment in your house, electrify you if you are on the phone and maybe start a fire and burn your house down. (I’m actually being serious about this - google it.)

    Maybe copper cables are more dangerous than insulation? So the Liberals are killing people by opposing the NBN?

  • 30
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    I like it Angra - imagine today tonight running a scare campaign on Abbott & Turnball for burning down some poor pensioners house because she was stuck on copper wire rather than fibre optics.

  • 31
    Holden Back
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Angra, Jimmy- you don’t suppose cloud-seeding could cause lighting strikes, do you?

  • 32
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    shepherdmarilyn - I’m sure you know that copper is one of the best conductors of electricity. So in a storm it can channel the massive voltage of a lightning strike into your house. Everything connected via the mains is toast. This happens.

    People HAVE been electrified by being on the phone during a storm.

    Glass fibre cannot do this as it does not conduct electricity - only light.

    So NBN fibre = good-in-a-storm; Telstra copper = bad.

    A good argument for us in the bush where storms are common.

  • 33
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    PLEASE explain how Gillard can go to the GG and get a decree saying their will be no NBN analysis in parliament committees?

    Are we a dictatorship now.

  • 34
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Angra, ShepherdMarilyn,

    The fact that you direct your outbursts at a straw man existing only in your own imagination, rather than at what I said, underlines the need for cooler heads to analyze this plan.

    No one is suggesting that fibre be banned, or that the taxpayer not invest in advanced infrastructure including fibre, or that the current networks be frozen in place, or any other straw man you’re trying to invent.

    Malcolm Turnbull’s suggestion is that Australian internet users may be able to get the same leap in capability as they would get under NBN, for a far lower cost to the public, with more flexibility (eg including wireless).

  • 35
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    People - run a check on people killed by electrical faults caused by copper telecoms cabling and maybe lightning strikes, and compare this to the insulation stats. I’m sure you would come to some interesting conclusions.

  • 36
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Freecountry is an obvious troll. My stats are not in my imagination - they can be checked any time. Malcolm is a victim of political expediency - his private comments are at odds with this orthodox statement. I believe his private views are at odds with his political masters. I wish he would stand up for himself, then we might have more respect for him.

    I am not aligned to any particular party.

  • 37
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Free Country - I am not a tech head but every expert in the field I have heard states categorically that wireless can not give them same results as the NBN, and as mobile coverage in my not so remote area is still very patchy I can see why. The NBN does not hinder wireless in fact it will more than likely enhance it. The argumennt that something else in the future will be better could be used endlessly so we need to just go with the best advice and bite the bullet.

  • 38
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 4:20 pm | Permalink




  • 39
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    I’ll say one thing about News Ltd’s publications. They never allow the facts to get in the way of a good lie.

  • 40
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Angra can I just ask the noted technology guru Piers Akerman?

    More seriously for us country folk using the phone during a thunderstorm is a big no no.
    People might die but much more frequently the problem is an acoustic shock that merely annihilates an ear drum.

    And TAUST
    Do you really think we can pay people to move to where the broadband is? What city should we put them in and where will your food and resources and electricity come from?
    oh how stupid of me
    It will come from where it always has, ie the fridge, the supermarket, the light switch - of course.
    PS thanks for the laugh

  • 41
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Yeah Taust, the whole idea of the NBN is to get people wired in the bush so they can stay out of the cities.

  • 42
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    All that you write Bernard - and most of the 41 comments above - presupposes that there is merit in the spending of $43billion of borrowed funds (that have to be repaid by those of us who do pay taxes). I have yet to see any valid argument to support that aspect of this debate. Likening this NBN to the difference between dirt roads and sealed roads is so puerile as to be silly.

    Of course we all want things to be better than they are - but at what cost to whom?

    Can’t wait for the great Mr Quigley to come clean with the financial truth about this great white elephant!

  • 43
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    If the Federal government is anything like the State government of Victoria’s premier John Brumby, they will choose the most expensive option. Therefore anyone wanting to field a plan which involves installing each fibre in a coating of gold, go for it.

    It’s only our money.

  • 44
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    ANGRA…you got it in one. The only FREE in Freecountry, is the space between its Liberal lugs. It carries on like a pork chop and is best ignored. Like a bad smell it will go away.

  • 45
    John Bennetts
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    How about a bit of perspective?

    The cost to government of the reduction in tax scales early in Rudd’s term already exceeds $50B. It has passed unnoticed and without comment.

    The cost of the NBN, spread out through three times as long, will do likewise. I’m not saying that $43B or whatever is not a considerable amount of money; only that in the big scheme of things and when spread out over 5 or 10 years, it is not especially significant.

  • 46
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    NBN business model establishes that taxpayers are paid back their investment with a modest return by year 15 of the project on the basis that privatisation is completed,” said Conroy in a statement.

    “Twelve months ago, the Government committed to investing in a $43 billion NBN. The study confirms that the company will generate sufficient earnings by the end of year 7 so that the Government’s recommended investment peaks at $26 billion.”

  • 47
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    John - That is exactly why we can’t get infrastrucutre of the ground, Howard and then Rudd (after matching howards promise) gave every one about $5 per week in tax cuts and the public thought they were heroes and got accustomed to getting cuts every year, now you want to spend taxes on the type of thing they were designed for and people complain.

  • 48
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Sorry David - if you believe what Conroy “said,” then you must believe in Santa too.

    We already can see that privatisation is a sick joke, and if you think it will be completed for $26 million, or even $46 million - well Peter Pan also flew.

  • 49
    the man on the clapham omnibus
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    I’m a big advocate of the NBN, I believe it will offer a great transformation in efficiency and productivity in our country. I’m envious of countries like Sweden & South Korea who have this in place.

    I do see a point in some alternative opinion being expressed though and the type of arguments against it is something supporters should consider to counter some of the opinion mentioned:

    We should look at bang for our buck in these large infrastructure projects, and hold them to account. This could be as simple as ensuring the structure & governance of the department & NBN co is geared for success and ensure it is open and accountable:

    One only has to look at DEWHA’s recent failings to see a department that is strong on policy, but poor at implementation that almost brought down the government with a scathing Auditor general’s report of it’s conduct on major projects.

    Also, is the NBN a ‘Get a man on the Moon’ type project for the Government where cost is no object and the end goal is all that matters or is cost most important and either taking more time or less coverage/speed acceptable over 7 years? The nature of projects of this size & complexity is that they will always be challenged and encounter problems of some sort.

    Turnbull would be an ideal opposition spokesmen for this if he could focus on things like the following and not just look to ‘destroy’:

    * Would FTTN and customers paying for the ‘gold package” FTTH suffice & provide a similar benefit? Or once the trucks start rolling out is it better to do it all?
    * Is NBN Co. being run as an open and accountable operation?
    * Can we use private investment / expertise or partner with PPP more effectively in some areas? (Brisbane City?)
    * How do we prevent creating another monopoly?
    * How do we prevent it becoming an ICT / Contractor gravy train like the Transformation projects in major companies?

    Keeping on top of issues like these and having ready answers may stem a lot of the current uncertainty and criticism in the press and win more support.

  • 50
    Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    I think the NBN is a great idea. You have to look back 10 years to see what we were using the internet for then compared to now. And what will we be using it for in another 10 years and beyond!
    However I hope this spending is not going to put other projects on the back burner. What are we sacrificing to fund this? What should the priorities be? Health, education, public transport??? There never seems to be enough for these things now. I know the fiber will help some of these areas become more efficient, well we hope so, but then maybe this is just the easiest one to get through the bickering and point scoring that plagues our parliament today!

Womens Agenda


Smart Company