Past history: When the Nationals backed the NBN


blog Think all elements of the Coalition have always been irrevocably opposed to Labor’s ambitious National Broadband Network project? Think again. Back in April 2009 when it was first announced by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the good Senator Barnaby Joyce issued a media release supporting the idea – in fact, strongly supporting the idea. The media release issued at the time (and recently re-circulated to your writer by some helpful readers) stated:

The National Broadband Network is truly the Nationals’ Broadband Network as it has been lifted straight from the 2005 Page Research Centre’s position paper into telecommunications chaired by then Senator-elect Fiona Nash, Senator Barnaby Joyce, the Leader of the Nationals in the Senate, said today.

“How could we disagree with something that is quite evidently our idea,” he said … “It is vitally important that the National Broadband Network gets to the corners of our country where the market has failed, at a price that is both affordable and a service that is comparable.”

Senator Nash said that the Nationals’ plan recommended that the government retain a stake in the telecommunications infrastructure by making a capital investment in a broadband network.

“A business consortium in 2004 approached the Page Research Centre with a preliminary costing of $7 billion to roll out the infrastructure with a view to it being completed in five years. The plan then was to roll out fibre optic cable which the government would lease to service providers including Telstra. With the government controlling this part of the infrastructure, it would remove some of anticompetitive practices and create a transparent pricing regime.

“As I said in 2005, rolling out fibre optic infrastructure across Australia would be like a Glass Snowy, Mr Rudd has used the same analogy today.”

To me what this statement by Joyce and Nash at the time illustrates is that the NBN does have the potential to be a bi-partisan policy, supported by all the major parties, but that that possibility is currently being bedeviled by the extremely negative political environment which Australia is suffering under. Certainly these statements are a far cry from the ridiculously inaccurate claims which Nationals Leader Warren Truss has recently been making about the NBN.

Why, Nationals voters should be asking their representatives, did the Nationals abandon their support for this kind of initiative, falling in line with the Liberal Party’s views on the issue? Why didn’t the Nationals push for a compromise situation, where the NBN policy could have come a little closer to the Liberal viewpoint while maintaining the policy elements which Labor, the Greens and the Nationals all agreed on? It’s a decade-long project worth tens of billions of dollars, after all. It seems appropriate that the effort be made.

Image credit: Robert, Creative Commons


  1. I suspect the Nats have very little say in their “partnership”, and just fall in line with whatever the Libs want so they can get their pollie pensions and retire back to the farm one day.

  2. The Nationals seem to have given up largely as an independent political party. I’ve not seen them really produce anything in the last few years that is original or in any way opposing to the Liberals.

    To me, the Nationals are dissolving into political obscurity, slowly being absorbed into the Liberals.

    • “To me, the Nationals are dissolving into political obscurity, slowly being absorbed into the Liberals.”

      What you said really reminds me of this famous Star Trek quote

      “We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”

      How true it is, there is NO NATIONAL PARTY as they don’t have a say in anything it seems.

      • @Avid

        indeed, it appears Resistance WAS futile- they have already been assimilated. They just haven’t come out of the dream yet to the real world….

    • With the exception of Tony Crook. He is quite independent in his thoughts and regularly disagrees with liberals.

      • Tony Crook is a WA Liberal not a National. Nationals are effectively “traditional ALP” values with a bent for small-market free enterprise and no union association. For instance, their current heartland in QLD is the original birthplace of the ALP with families like the Katter family trancending from ALP support to NP support over generations (with Bob going further).

    • Well, it has already happened… in Queensland a few years ago when the ‘stonger’ National Party “merged” with it’s then lesser coalition partner, the Liberals, when they were in opposition.
      The next point, one of the reasons why the disaffected former Nationals, now as independents, Windsor, Oakshot and Katter, sided with Labor to form a minority government with the Greens, was that the NBN would benefit regional Australia more so than the LNP’s policy. They knew of Senator Joyce’s position and also knew that Messrs. Abbott et al would shout down any proposed change to their entrenched position on the matter. My local member, a National, willingly trots out the same argument as Warren Truss, yet would have great difficulty supporting this argument in the face of the NBN being switched on in December this year. If well go to Federal election toward the end of next year, he is going to look pretty silly with this position when most of the electorate will have had by then the opportunity to take up the NBN offer. It will be an interesting time.

  3. This article seems to be written in past tense, which I don’t understand; every time a Nationals member opens their mouth on the subject they voice their support – usually it’s “we can’t wait to get our amazing NBN connection!” or something like that.

  4. Delimiter should change its slogan to either “Just NBN. Just now” or “We trash those who trash NBN”. Failure to do so makes casual readers think you are socialist Labor donors. I know that couldn’t be the case because your target audience, those from the teleco and IT industries, perform wonders in an environment that is full of conservatives working for themselves. Stop going for easy targets and earn yourselves a stamp by interviewing a Labor or Greens minister who isn’t happy with NBN.

    • “We trash those who trash NBN”
      This article is pointing out the Nationals’ former support for the NBN, no trashing going on at all. Did you read it?

      “Stop going for easy targets”
      In cases like this, going for easy targets is what good journalists do. The easy targets are made easy by Delimiter because Delimiter uses this thing called ‘evidence’ to show the truth.

      “interviewing a Labor or Greens minister who isn’t happy with NBN.”
      You can’t interview non-existent people.

      • “Delimiter uses this thing called ‘evidence’ to show the truth”

        Shocking. Frankly, I think someone should report this behaviour to the Editor of Delimiter before it goes too far and gets out of control.

        • Unfortunately Renai, the problem with evidence based in relation to the NBN is… the Corporate plan projections aren’t considered evidence by those opposing the NBN… even though documented and analysed.

          No the figures aren’t absolute but they are a measured guide as to future progressive steps – but no…

          The figures are bluntly ignored by those who have “absolutely nothing evidence based” to refute these figures with :/

          Apparently “because” and/or “Labor sux”, is more evidence based according to them than the Corporate plan and dozens of reports suggesting the NBN a coup for all Aussies?

          Go figure.

          • @NBNAlex: Not quite! Coalition have all the evidence they need! Because they said so!

            It will be “cheaper and faster”. And if a trustworthy Coalition member said so then it must be true! We don’t need proof because we can trust the Coalition! Labor is all lies anyway! So all their documentation, analysis and whatnot wouldn’t be trustworthy! Why listen to cooked up numbers when we have the politicians golden WORD that they will be better!

            (yes that was sarcasm for people who missed it! =P)

    • Hi Zoe,

      When you say, “Failure to do so makes casual readers think you are socialist Labor donors” all I hear is “i don’t like labor, therefore anyone not bagging labor is wrong”

      If you’re after confirmation bias, check out a Murdoch rag, they’re full of the bile you seek.

      How ironic that you take an absurd partisan approach to an article, highlighting the absurd partisan at all costs strategy of the current coalition.


    • ‘Just NBN. Just now.’

      Hey, that’s great; common sense all round and a cool slogan to boot.

      Though your common sense is not so apparent when you inferentially tag NBN supporters as ‘socialist Labor’, and presumably you feel the NBN opponents must be all those sterling ‘conservatives working for themselves.’

      There are some people, many of them on this thread, who think NBN is a fine idea because it’s building vital infrastructure for this country. Maybe anyone who is more interested in politics could go and do their thing elsewhere. Hmmm?

    • @Zoe

      Stop going for easy targets and earn yourselves a stamp by interviewing a Labor or Greens minister who isn’t happy with NBN.

      Ahhh, Zoe, there aren’t any. They support it wholeheartedly. And even if they didn’t, do you think they’re gonna tell a journalist??? They don’t want to join the mess that is the Coalition communications policy. That’s how it got that way everyone having a free for all.

      Could you name someone in the Greens or Labor who he should specifically interview?

        • Yes. It is amazing how many “different” posters have exactly the same writing style.

        • @HC

          Oh dear…’s actually not though, that’s the thing. The hiding behind avatars and anonymity of the net is 90% good and 10% pain in the rear end sometimes….

    • As far as I can tell a vast majority of the people who are posting support are normally liberal voters.
      The only reasons they are maybe supporting labor this time round are:
      1. NBN policy
      2. Tony Abbot

    • “your target audience, those from the teleco and IT industries”

      Actually Zoe, I think you’ll find that the target audience is the typical open-minded Aussie who wants actual facts instead of hyperbole and political vitriol…

      • I agree,

        Renai does not write in such a way to make it only accessible to the tech industry professionals. Granted I am a very interested and quasi informed bystander but still it is well written stuff.

    • I can understand this point of view. I fully support the NBN is as now, if not rolling it out even further but every article is always pro-NBN or anti NBN Disagreer. I think the NBN is such a wonderful policy and all the deniers are usually lying or misleading the public that the amount of pro nbn articles is justified and are based in fact. But I can understand someone who thinks its a bad policy believing this site is bias.

    • “Failure to do so makes casual readers think you are socialist Labor donors”

      does that make you a corporate liberal? you do realise the extent to which service prices would massively rise if a liberal government let business build it at their cost? its why theyre going to massively subsidise the costs because if they didnt us end users wouldnt pay for it in the first place.

      i’ve never really understood why its acceptable for a liberal government to just hand over taxpayer money to big business, yet a labor government is not allowed to build infrastructure that would eventually cost taxpayers nothing (as the users pay for it)

      sure its a form of socialism but some socialism is not completely evil.

      • “sure its a form of socialism but some socialism is not completely evil.”

        Of course socialism is not evil. The potential problem with socialism is essentially that governments might not do things efficiently because they’re not businesses and so not in touch with price signals. However there are cases where private enterprise simply won’t get the job done – such as the obvious example of roads, and, as proved by the current situation in this country, telecommunications.

  5. “How could we disagree with something that is quite evidently our idea”

    Because you are politically motivated to disagree with it now… and you are a bunch of clowns. Hope that helps Barnaby.

  6. Finally!!
    I have been wanting the media to pick up on the Nationals hypocrisy for a very long time now. I have pointed it out many times in Whirlpool.
    The Nats are effectively silent on this (and many other) issues. They are doing their constituents a massive dis-service settling for FTTN or a greater wrieless footprint for their areas, when the NBN offers the fibre that was “their idea”.Where is the indignation from Barnaby or Fiona over the Libs giving them a worse outcome, and not allowing them input into the “Coalitions” policy.
    Our local member is a National Party member, and he regularly says that fibre is not necessary. That is clearly from the Liberals speaking notes, and not the Nationals own research. (He doesnt like it when you remind him of it either ;) )

    The Nationals might as well just rename themsevles the Liberal Party, and get it over and done with. They dont have any points of difference they stand on any more. The only people they are fooling are themselves.

    • In fact the Nationals should rename themselves Fido and be ready to roll over (again) when the master says :(

  7. Coalition voters advocate the NBN by 44% to 43%, while Labor/Greens support is somewhere north of 80%, according to the few statistically significant polls published on the matter.

    But weeks before the AUust 2010 election, with Labor badly on the nose and certain to lose, I trawled through the NBN Senate Committee and Nationals platform (which was mysteriously modified post-election!) and penned this article speculating on what the coalition broadband policy might look like:

    The laughable wet rag policy announced the Sunday prior to the election was especially disappointing because it even failed to deliver any of the objectives repeatedly emphasised by coalition members in the Senate Committee or National Party.

    I said it then and frequently since, that unless the coalition stops being the no-fibre party, it will absolutely lose regional seats that are predisposed to vote conservative.

    Regional areas with NBN fibre have already validated the 2005 Nationals argument on demand, with 82% of connected services choosing speeds above the entry-level offerings.

    Elections are lost on raw numbers of votes, and the leakage of votes to Labor and cross benches on this issue will certainly result in a loss of regional and outer metro seats, unless some of the knowledgeable members of the coalition grab their leader by the scruff of the neck and tell him to fix the policy.

  8. Without knowing the finer details i think most would have supported the NBN. Who wouldn’t want something better and faster. Once you read the fine print your going to think hey wait a second are you serious.

    Ignorance is bliss.

    • @not same

      I’m glad that we live in a democratic country where everyone can have their own opinion and express it. And it appears those in the industry, those who’ve read and understood the ‘fine print’ appear to agree it will work.

      Several have said it isn’t perfect and could be improved, but I don’t know of any who’ve said ‘it’ll be a disaster’.

  9. The problem with politics is that debates have little to do with substance. It is all about winning the argument, much like high school debating.

  10. Still cant understand Liberals anti FTTP agenda. Its the only policy keeping Labour in the election race at the moment and if they just adopted the policy they will win both houses in an absolute landslide. Im just hoping Turnbull not releasing detailed policy is just a forerunner for an eventual backflip from himself and the libs when they can afford to stop play politics on the issue. Cause im pretty sure everyone knows Malcom believes FTTP is the right choice but is just pulling Abott’s party line.

    • The risk of a late policy backflip to support FTTP is that the electorate might not believe them, in which case many of the lost coalition votes will not switch back.

    • @Siege of Perth

      You’re deluding yourself if you believe that Abbott will keep Turnbull on as Communications Minister in the event of a Coalition victory at the next election.

      Abbott and Hockey have made it clear that the NBN is irrelevant to them. Expect all contracts cancelled and what’s been built to be sold off to Telstra at fire sale prices.

      Abbott with his crush, kills, destroy mentality will just prevent any FTTP from happening at all.

  11. To the non-supporters of the NBN:

    2/3rd’s of Australians support the NBN, that is a majority, if you cannot accept that, don’t just spout words.

    What other evidence do you require ? There has been consistent support for the National Broadband Network since it was initiated after the NBN MK1 .

    The Liberals and Nationals did nothing for over 12 years, The Nationals who actually sold their soul to the Liberals, given up (unlike the greens).

    They sold Telstra for a pittance.

    Here is what Howard said in 2005:

    JOHN HOWARD: Well, the justification for privatising Telstra is based on a number of things, including the conflict of interest. Another reason…

    KERRY O’BRIEN: But it’s a conflict of interest that you set up.

    JOHN HOWARD: Yes. Kerry, I understand that. But, the reality is that even if we had been – if we had remained a 100 per cent shareholder, we still would have in the name of competition been regulating both ourselves as the 100 per cent shareholder and also the other competitive rivals of Telstra. It’s the sort of argument you’ve just about advanced would be fair enough if Telstra had no competitors. But thankfully Telstra does have competitors and because Telstra has competitors, we now have some of the cheapest mobile phone situations anywhere in the world and we have enormous additional benefits for customers – additional benefits to customers. So we can’t go back to where we were…


    It was nothing to do with Telstra being owned by the government, it’s just party line tactics that Coalition always had, that government sell government businesses to the private sector.

    When newman and Tony said “smaller” governments, they MEAN IT..

    • Even the 1/3 who say they dont want the NBN do but wont admit to it because of their ideology or they think your talking about channel 9.

      • I think you are right MikeK. It seems to me strange how many are saying “We hate the NBN” and in the next breath demanding to have it immediately.

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