Oct 24, 2017

NBN farce the result of a neoliberal absurdity

Malcolm Turnbull says we shouldn't have started from where we did on the NBN -- problem is, we didn't have much choice, thanks to market economics.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

The Prime Minister urgently needs a better line about the NBN. Malcolm Turnbull's response to every question about the NBN since the 2013 election has been to blame Labor for spending too much on fibre-to-the-premises technology, overseeing a slow rollout and treating the NBN as an asset, thus keeping it in the capital account of the budget and out of the budget deficit. But that's been going on for four years now, and -- for reasons both within his control and beyond it -- voters associate the growing debacle around the network entirely with him.

Now the NBN experience of huge numbers of customers is proving underwhelming. In particular, customers blame the NBN for slow speeds. NBN blames internet service providers for not purchasing sufficient capacity. ISPs blame NBN for charging too much for capacity. NBN blames its high prices on the need to earn a return on the government's investment. The PM blames that on Kevin Rudd, saying NBN should never have been expected to make a return (Rudd blames News Corp, a longstanding and nonsensical myth). Indeed, Turnbull's been saying for some months that NBN wasn't going to turn a handsome profit -- in April he said that NBN was making a return but it wasn't "what a commercial employer would want or a bank would want."

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25 thoughts on “NBN farce the result of a neoliberal absurdity

  1. The Curmudgeon

    Not only does the buck never stop at Turnbull’s desk, it doesn’t even slow down for a look.

  2. leon knight

    Turnbull and Abbott will be long remembered as the twin Errol Flynns of aussie politics, they have fucked everything they touched….

  3. Dog's Breakfast

    As was also covered in John Menadue’s blog, the real problem was with the selling of the vertically integrated Telecom/Telstra.

    It had to be split beforehand, the network had to remain in public ownership. As with so many things, our troubles today go directly back to decisions made by those pious fools, Howard and Costello.

    I can’t even blame Abbott that much, although he is also pivotal. How can you lay blame on a foolish child.

    Lamentable. So many bad decisions piled one on top of the other.

    1. zut alors

      Dogs, do you happen to recall who had the casting vote in the Senate over the sale of Telstra? It was New Zealander of the Year, Barnaby Joyce. I remember it well, he was still a Qld senator when I wrote to him with an argument imploring that he not support the sell off. I cautioned we were about to sell the goose that laid the golden egg.

      Last night’s 4 Corners was an eye-opener especially in regard to the far superior NZ NBN. It makes us look like a third world technocracy by comparison.

  4. klewso

    Facing a threat to his income source and influence Murdoch engaged prominent silk “Tosser” Turnbull to nobble the NBN – and he succeeded masterfully under Abbott, before passing the victim to Fifield for the last Right’s.
    …. Imagine what the “great businessman” Turnbull could have done with it?
    So which is the “real Malcolm”?

  5. old greybearded one

    Abbott is not a child, he knew what he was doing, building NBN gold plated for the wealthy. Abbott and Turnbull tried to wreck this every way that they could. They kept changing plans, included clapped out infrastructure that had to be abandoned and used fttn when any fool knows it would be a stuff up. It also replaced ADSL that worked with half assed NBN that didn’t. Had we stuck with fttp we would all be better off. How can it be that opposite sides of the same street have different protocols. My daughter has fttp it is fantastic. Private enterprise would never have built the NBN because it is needed in regional and rural ares. They would not have gone there it had to be government.

  6. Xoanon

    Well said. Seems to me it’s the basic requirement of expecting the NBN to turn a profit which is ruining the project. That might have seemed a necessary sweetener at the height of the neoliberal mania a decade ago, but now the public would be quite happy with an NBN that stays owned by the government and runs at a loss if necessary to make its high-speed network work. Turnbull definitely owns this eff-up.

    1. Decorum

      I agree. It seems to me that Labor should embrace and own their original NBN proposal completely – yes, it would have been expensive, they can say, but it would have been a high-quality and effective nation-building exercise etc. etc. [Personally I think that’s a crock and the thing should never have even been broached by anyone, but that’s neither here nor there.] Instead, we bought a bill of goods from Honest Malcolm’s Infrastructure Hut which is, unsurprisingly, crap and is going to turn out not to save money either. Still, I’m sure the inland Rail to Nowhere and the Adani billionaire subsidies – and everything else from Honest Malcolm’s travelling roadshow – will be public money really well spent.

  7. cto6

    It’s rather ironic that Turnbull, who seems to embrace innovation today, was so determined to destroy a fibre based network for that very innovation to take place when he was Communications Minister. It’s the height of hypocrisy that we are used to now.

    Back then, Turnbull must have understood the “value destruction” he would be imposing on the NBN, not to mention Australian businesses, when he decided to switch back to using Telstra’s copper again. It is dumbest decision he has ever made by far, although ruining Australia’s renewable energy industry is a close second.

    Back then, Turnbull would also have known from his fortuitous association with OzEmail that fibre is infinitely superior to copper in every way especially for the 21st Century in a developed country. Australia was already slipping down the Broadband Speed ladder internationally and the Government has been aware of the impact on our business competitiveness for a long time.

    Australia will eventually get a fibre based solution because we have to, if for no other reason than to keep our nation’s operating costs down (health, education, commerce etc). It may take 10 years to complete based on progress so far and maybe even another $50B, who knows? Let’s not forget the cost of the lost business opportunities in our country because of the ridiculously inferior service we have now by international standards.

    Turnbull will go down in history as one of the most value destructive leaders of our times and the NBN will be his biggest trophy by far because he oversaw every element of it’s destruction.

  8. bref

    From day one the IT industry has had one overwhelming wish. Do it once, do it right. Rudd and his advisors were well on the way to deliver that before Abbott got his mangy claws on it. He and Turnbull ruined it for the country and now we’re stuck with it and why is Fifield looking so pleased with himself, like most of the current crop of ministers he couldn’t manage his way out of a wet paper bag.
    We used to be a country which could tackle the difficult stuff. We rolled out phone and electricity lines to almost everyone in the country. We build railway networks. We had a shipping industry. We had an car manufacturing industry. Can you imagine building a harbour bridge today, knowing it would take 80 years to pay off?
    Yes rolling out NBN to almost everyone in the country is expensive, but who says it has to be paid for in the next 20 years. With glass fibre you can add capacity theoretically ad infinitum. Copper lasted 100 years, fibre will do it for the next hundred. Everything doesn’t have to be viewed through the prism of what the stock market values it at today or next month!
    Thats my rant so far, I could go on for longer. I just hope those friends I have bored with this for years will start to get it now. Thank you 4 Corners once again for shining a light on what really goes on in this country.

    1. Marjorie Carless

      Unfortunately for Australia our recent leaders are either lazy or just can’t be bothered with the work ethic, everything seems to be too hard or too expensive for them. They privatise whatever they have control over and get rid of most things they can’t. Australia is changing from a new dynamic country to an old one before it’s time. The Lord help us because our politicians certainly won’t.

  9. brian crooks

    turdball says the sky is falling, but blame on labor, if nth korea nukes us we know its labors fault, if the cat has kittens”’ well, you know whose fault it is

  10. zut alors

    In 2011-12 the South Brisbane telephone exchange area had FTTP installed due to the parlous state of the old copper wiring. Rather than repeatedly repairing & patching the decaying copper Telstra undertook to re-do the entire exchange. At no cost to the public we received exactly what the Rudd NBN was supposed to deliver – but this was a Telstra project, not related to the NBN except in spirit/technology.

    The Telstra rollout was brilliant, the technicians were helpful to householders &, on the grapevine, I did not hear of one stuff-up in this major project. Not a single gripe from any neighbour. Download speeds are around 105 Mbps.

    Knowing how beneficial fibre-optic can be from this personal experience it angers me that the rest of Oz has been sold a pup – a mangy mutt at a premium price.

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