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  • Analysis, Telecommunications - Written by on Thursday, January 17, 2013 12:22 - 53 Comments

    Fact check: The NBN wasn’t a “media stunt”

    analysis Free market thinktank the Institute of Public Affairs recently claimed Labor’s flagship National Broadband Network project was drawn up purely as a “media stunt” to drum up publicity for the Government. Unfortunately, this is a factually inaccurate statement, and here’s the evidence to prove it.

    Several weeks ago the Institute of Public Affairs published a somewhat controversial article dealing with the failures of Australia’s media when it comes to reporting on the nation’s politicial scene, drawing extensively from a new book penned by journalist James Button, who was for a short time a speechwriter for then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2009.

    In general I like the article. It’s a salient examination of the many failures of the Canberra press gallery when it comes to reporting on politicians and government in general. It’s true that our journalists didn’t dig deep enough into the issues in the Rudd Labor administration, leaving Australians shocked and surprised when Julia Gillard ousted Rudd in 2009. And there is no doubt that the quality of journalism in the press gallery has declined even further since that point. One need only examine the ongoing state of reporting surrounding the National Broadband Network – a critical infrastructure project for Australia’s future – to verify that fact.

    In addition, I want to point out that unlike many commentators, I don’t believe the IPA to be the evil, nefarious organisation that many people seem to think it is. Sure, I don’t agree with its views when it comes to human-created climate change, but on other issues, such as online civil liberties and the benefits of small government, I personally feel the IPA is on solid ground. Just look at the way the thinktank is spearheading opposition to the controversial data retention and surveillance reforms being pushed by the Federal Attorney-General’s Department. Most of Delimiter’s readers would doubtless see eye to eye with the IPA on that one.

    However, one section of the thinktank’s press criticism article stuck in my craw: The claim that the Rudd administration didn’t do sufficient research before announcing its revised National Broadband Network policy in April 2009. Let’s examine the IPA’s statement again on this issue:

    “Because he had no faith in his ministers, Rudd encouraged his personal staff to make policy decisions without input from ministers and their departments. That was how the tragedy of Labor’s ‘pink-batts’ came about. One of the reasons the National Broadband Network, the largest infrastructure project in the country’s history, didn’t have a cost-benefit analysis applied to it was because the policy didn’t go through any sort of regular cabinet process. It was conceived only as an ‘announceable’-a media stunt for the political benefit of the government.”

    To test the IPA’s claim on this issue, it’s necessary to go back several years to the period between January and April 2009 and examine what happened with respect to the NBN policy at that stage. Thankfully, with some assistance from a few helpful sources, I’ve been able to compile a pretty solid record of proceedings.

    Until January 2009, the Rudd Government’s communications policy was the same one it took to the 2007 Federal Election. In short, the Government was seeking a private sector partner (for example, a major telco like Telstra or Optus) to help it build a nation-wide Fibre to the Node-based broadband network. The project was to be a public/private partnership, with both the government and the private sector chipping in a few billion dollars to get the job done.

    What happened next is very well documented.

    On January 21 that year, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy realised that this policy was no longer valid. The reason was that a panel of experts the Government had commissioned to examine private sector bids for the project had sent him its report detailing the fact that none of the bids were satisfactory.

    Conroy’s response to this troubling issue – which had the potential to blow up into a huge debacle for the Government — was pretty textbook for a Minister in charge of a huge and very public infrastructure project. He got the Prime Minister involved. We know the particulars of this involvement because of a detailed article published by Sydney Morning Herald journalist Peter Hartcher at the time.

    Hartcher tells us that, in order to get a slot in Rudd’s busy schedule, Conroy caught several flights with the Prime Minister, the first between Sydney to Melbourne that same day – January 21. As the flight was not long enough to fully discuss the issue, the next day Conroy caught another flight with Rudd, this time from Melbourne to Brisbane.

    We also know, this time from a series of responses to Senate Estimates questions which Conroy’s department filed in May 2009 (PDF), that Conroy wasn’t the only one briefing Rudd on the issue around that period. In fact, Rudd was briefed directly by the then-secretary of Conroy’s Department, Patricia Scott, as well as other staff from Conroy’s office.

    We don’t know precisely what the NBN panel of experts recommended that the Federal Government do, because its report has not been released publicly, and the extract from that report which has been released (PDF) is quite vague about what the panel recommended. However, we do know, from statements made by Rudd and Conroy that one of the recommendations of the panel was that the Government investigate a Fibre to the Home network, instead of Fibre to the Node.

    So what happened next?

    According to both Hartcher’s article and Conroy’s responses to the Senate Estimates questions, Rudd convened what has been referred to as the ‘gang of four’ or the ‘Kitchen Cabinet’, as well as Conroy, to determine a solution to the NBN policy issue.

    For those unfamiliar with this group, it was composed of Rudd, Treasurer Wayne Swan, then-Deputy PM Julia Gillard and Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner. For the purposes of the NBN, Conroy also had input in these meetings. This group, which initially was of an informal nature, took on a more formal approach during Rudd’s tenure at the top, ending up with the name The Strategic Priorities and Budget Committee of Cabinet.

    Conroy’s Senate Estimates responses state: “The Strategic Priorities and Budget Committee of Cabinet considered the NBN policy on a number of occasions between 29 January 2009 and 6 April 2009. The Government considered a range of options before decisions were taken to terminate the National Broadband Network (NBN) Request for Proposals process and to adopt the NBN policy announced on 7 April 2009.”

    And in response to the following question from Liberal Senator Nick Minchin: ‘Having received all of this advice, when did the Cabinet subcommittee conclude its deliberations?’ Conroy’s department responded: “6 April 2009.”

    We also know quite a bit more about this time frame from Senate Estimates hearings held on 26 May 2009 (PDF), when Conroy and officials from his department, such as then-Secretary Patricia Scott, took questions from Minchin and others. For instance, we know that Conroy’s department was able to draw on information both from within its own operations as well as external advisors – including technical advisors – to supply information to Rudd’s micro-Cabinet.

    In addition, that same session also made it clear that the Department of Finance and Deregulation supplied financial advice to assist with the project. It is apparent that the Department of the Treasury was also consulted, due to its role helping fund the NBN by issuing Aussie Infrastructure Bonds, and Scott also mentions the Defence Signals Directorate, the Government’s peak technology security agency.

    More information about this period comes from Lindsay Tanner’s new book Politics with Purpose, which has a whole chapter devoted to explaining how Rudd’s ‘gang of four’ worked. Tanner writes: “In January 2009 we met almost continuously for two weeks, in almost every capital city, to craft the second stimulus package. We later moved on to conduct extensive deliberations on the National Broadband Network proposal, and on complex health reform and tax reform proposals.”

    The smaller Cabinet process was not without its difficulties, Tanner noted, and it didn’t handle everything. In fact, most decisions were still being made elsewhere in other Cabinet committees. However, the gang of four specialised in “dealing with the most complicated and difficult issues facing the government”.

    The gang of four process eventually deteriorated, Tanner adds, but he describes it as “the crystallisation of an underlying reality of all governments”, being that “all decisions of any consequence need to be filtered through a very small group of people – a handful of senior ministers and public servants. Additionally, he says: “All governments have some form of kitchen cabinet arrangements, and all governments sometimes employ flawed decision-making arrangements.”

    We also know when the wider NBN proposal was finalised and taken to the wider Cabinet. Both Hartcher and Conroy’s questions on notice agree that the full Cabinet formally considered the NBN proposal on 7 April 2009 – the very same morning that Rudd and Conroy fronted a press conference to announce the plan. However, Hartcher adds that Cabinet met informally the night before at Kirribilli House to brief it on the plan.

    Knowing all of this, let’s go back to the IPA’s original claim: That the current NBN project was conceived only as a “media stunt” – something that the Government could announce to show that it was doing something, but not a policy that had been fully researched before it hit the front pages.

    With the benefit of hindsight and the documents that I’ve presented today, we can prove this claim false. The current NBN project was conceived as a very necessary reaction to the demonstratable failure of Labor’s initial NBN policy from the 2007 election. Its formation came about through the recommendations of an independent expert panel and it was examined at length, extensively, by the most important ministers in the Rudd Government and with the detailed assistance of key departments, agencies and external advisors. And let’s be under no illusion: The Government did need to move on this topic. The telecommunications industry had several years ago come to a sticking point regarding its future development, which only government intervention could resolve.

    Perhaps the wider Cabinet could have been briefed earlier on the project rather than at the last minute, but then one really has to question what benefit would have accrued from getting input from non-technical ministers on this project wholly outside their portfolios. The NBN was considered in great detail by a much smaller group of key decision-makers – with the explicit assistance of the responsible portfolio minister, in this case Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

    The extent to which you believe this process to be invalid depends on to what extent you believe that Rudd’s kitchen cabinet was invalid. Personally, up until the point where it became ineffective (as Tanner mentions it eventually did), I believe Rudd’s process was effective, as Tanner also states. Personally I believe it to be a complete waste of time for a Defence Minister, for example, to spend a great deal of time considering issues in the Communications portfolio, as happens in the “normal” Cabinet processes claimed by the IPA. In fact, there is a question about to what extent such “normal” Cabinet processes have ever really existed, given that Tanner gives examples of where Liberal Prime Minister John Howard followed a similar streamlined process to Rudd at times, and the several long-running Cabinet sub-committees which make decisions in various portfolios and then get them approved by Cabinet as a whole.

    I would much rather see complex issues worked through by smaller committees, as they usually are. In this case, given the importance of the NBN as Australia’s largest ever infrastructure project, I believe it was appropriate that Rudd himself and his most important ministers examined the situation personally, with the assistance and guidance of the portfolio minister responsible, Conroy.

    Perhaps most importantly, for Australians themselves, the process worked. As I’ve written repeatedly over the past few months, the NBN has stood the test of time and intensive criticism over its lifetime. There’s still a debate about how well it is being implemented, but early signs are that the policy is sound and will deliver massive service delivery improvements to all Australians, as well as restructuring the telecommunications industry and even delivering the government a long-term profit on its financial investment. In addition, the NBN remains overwhelmingly popular with the electorate.

    Now that’s good, soundly considered, popular policy.

    I must make one further addendum to this article. In its article, the IPA wrote:

    “The odds are firmly stacked against the press faithfully fulfilling its role of informing the public and holding governments to account- particularly those of the left. Far too many journalists allow their ideological preferences to cloud their news judgement … we can expect things to get much worse before they get any better, with the ceaseless expansion of the spin-state and the threat of draconian media regulation hanging over the press. There’s only one thing we can be confident of: the press failed us, and they will again.”

    Wikipedia describes a ‘think tank’, or ‘policy institute’ as a group that performs research and advocacy concerning important social topics. A significant aspect of this role is publishing that research and advocacy, as the IPA does through books, its own site, and stand-alone blogs such as its stand-alone Freedom Watch blog.

    To me, this means that the IPA, by definition, is a part of the press. Among many other things, it is a media outlet. It publishes news, opinion and feature articles, as well as books. In fact, the IPA’s columns can be found in mainstream media outlets such as the ABC and the Sydney Morning Herald. Ironically, in an article regarding the media’s failures, the IPA has given us an example of the kinds of poor media behaviour it was criticising.

    With this in mind, I would encourage the IPA to publish a correction to its article claiming that the NBN was originally announced as a “media stunt”. I hope the evidence I have presented today shows that the project as it was formed in early 2009 was well-researched and went through normal government processes to be approved and head towards implementation. This was effective policy; not mere spin. When the mainstream media makes a mistake in an article, it will generally publish a correction, and I hope to see the IPA adhere to this principle as well.

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    53 Comments

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    1. Posted 17/01/2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink |

      “…our journalists didn’t deep enough into…”

      “dig deep enough”?

    2. LM
      Posted 17/01/2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink |

      Fair enough criticism of the IPA, but what they were perhaps alluding to was Rudd’s tendency for huge or symbolic gestures commensurate with his ego, and that normal government processes were not followed, in that no business case was developed and Infrastructure Australia was not involved.

      • Posted 17/01/2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink |

        In this case normal government processes were followed. That much is very clear. The NBN was not drawn up on the back of a napkin — it was extensively researched and discussed at the highest levels of government.

    3. skywake
      Posted 17/01/2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink |

      A bit rich of a think tank to complain about the press allowing their “ideological preferences to cloud their news judgement”. The whole point of the IPA is to push their libertarianism onto the issue of the day and work backwards to the best argument they can find. The same is true of any think tank or lobby group, they all work from a conclusion to argument rather from the reality end.

      • nonny-moose
        Posted 17/01/2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink |

        it is a bit rich, but they are correct. witness the Australians ideological campaign against the NBN for one. their news judgement has certainly been clouded in my view!

    4. Posted 17/01/2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink |

      I love how the IPA think the biggest infrastructure upgrade Australia has ever seen as a “media stunt”, yet ignores the stunt-a-minute actions of Abbott. We can see they are far from independent as they claim on their site, just another mouthpiece for the LNP.

      • tinman_au
        Posted 17/01/2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink |

        Not so much a mouthpiece for the LNP, as the Right in general. They are a right wing think tank, not an LNP one, their views don’t always align perfectly, but as they are both of the right, they are mostly in sync. I don’t think they saw eye-to-eye on the data retention plans for example.

        Similar in a way to how the The Australia Institute are left aligned. A lot of their stuff will mostly be in sync with the ALP, but not everything (especially now the ALP in general has drifted to the right it’s self). Refugee policy is something they don’t necessarily align on for example.

        As Renai mentioned in his article though, both think tanks come out with material that more centralist types can probably agree with. Even though I’m not a fan of IPA (mostly because of their more extreme right ideas like most of their climate change stuff, and now this NBN howler), that doesn’t mean everything they put out is crap ;)

    5. Paul
      Posted 17/01/2013 at 1:30 pm | Permalink |

      Another well written article Renai. Well Done.

      • Posted 17/01/2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink |

        Cheers, much appreciated!

      • alain
        Posted 17/01/2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink |

        I think this article is a media stunt, written out on the back of a Coopers beer coaster.

        :)

        • socrates
          Posted 18/01/2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink |

          Absolute nonsense, alain.

          It’s perfectly obvious the article was influenced by the (sadly fading) effect of tequila sunrises… :)

          But it’s still bloody true!

    6. tinman_au
      Posted 17/01/2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink |

      Very astute Renai, good job.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think it will do one bit of good. Groups like the IPA only exist to give other groups “ammunition”, and much like the climate change debate, even though you’ve proven them wrong, the information will continue to resurface to be used as the basis of an argument against the NBN.

      It’s pretty sad that spin and misinformation trumps facts in modern politics :(

    7. gabrianga
      Posted 17/01/2013 at 2:08 pm | Permalink |

      Obviously some have changed their opinions since your 2010 article on criticism of the NBN

      http://www.computerworld.com.au/article/372077/commentators_pan_uncompetitive_nbn_plan/

      • tinman_au
        Posted 17/01/2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink |

        The NBN it’s self has changed a bit since then as well, as Gans main sticking point has been dealt with since then (for example).

      • Posted 17/01/2013 at 2:29 pm | Permalink |

        It happens. People are not forced to commit to an opinion for the rest of time. Which is why these comments by the IPA annoy me a little, even if it was a media stunt they still produced a sound policy over the next few years.

    8. Paul Grenfell
      Posted 17/01/2013 at 2:33 pm | Permalink |

      That was one massive paper napkin.!

    9. delphi
      Posted 17/01/2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink |

      “Until January 2009, the Rudd Government’s communications policy was the same one it took to the 2007 Federal Election. In short, the Government was seeking a private sector partner (for example, a major telco like Telstra or Optus) to help it build a nation-wide Fibre to the Node-based broadband network.”

      It’s a rather common misconception that the RFP was for FTTN solution (only)…:

      The National Broadband Network Request for Proposal Process
      ( http://www.anao.gov.au/Publications/Audit-Reports/2009-2010/The-National-Broadband-Network-Request-for-Proposal-Process/Audit-brochure )

      “The Government agreed in January 2008 to conduct a Request for Proposal (RFP) process to select a proponent(s) to build, operate and maintain the NBN. The Government’s broadband policy reflected its election commitments, but broadened the technology choice to any fibre based solution (using FTTN or fibre to the premises (FTTP) architecture).”

      • Posted 17/01/2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink |

        Quite correct – the original RFP certainly provided scope for either solution, but the game changed when the government looked at one of the RFP responses.

        In most circumstances – (there are exceptions, defence notably) – an RFP is primarily a fishing expedition to learn who and what is out there, what people might propose, how much it might indicatively cost, how it might be implemented, and how long it might take.

        You’ll notice I used the word “might” a lot in that last sentence.

        The responses you get to an RFP gives you the information required to formalise the RFT – (Request for Tender) – part of the process, and let the market know exactly what you want from the tender.

        The RFP is a “we kinda sorta know what we want, tell us how it might be done” exercise, used to finalise your thinking in preparing the RFT. You look at all the options and permutations, and decide exactly what you want.

        With respect to the NBN, the original RFP respondents – (Optus, Telstra, etc) – were putting in FTTN proposals, because the government had indicated that FTTN was their preferred option based on information they had collected at the EOI stage – (how formal the EOI stage was, I don’t know).

        Primarily, everyone – (including the government) – felt that FTTP, whilst a better solution, would be too expensive.

        Along came Axia NetMedia with their FTTN response AND an FTTP proposal that shifted the thinking:

        http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/axia-shows-its-nbn-hand/story-e6frg6n6-1111118278188

        Suddenly the belief that FTTP was too expensive was reconsidered. It was entirely appropriate to stop and restart whole process with new terms of reference, based on what Axia NetMedia put forward in their initial RFP response.

        Telstra as we know, submitted a non-compliant response, and that combined with the new thinking about FTTP, and the small number of other responses, caused NBN Mark II to be born.

        • alain
          Posted 18/01/2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink |

          The RFP was set up to fail, once you have eliminated Australia’s monopoly infrastructure owner from the process on a technicality the rest is easy.

          • Posted 18/01/2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink |

            Well aren’t we spinning a wonderful conspiracy…

          • Posted 18/01/2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink |

            Yeah, okay…whatever you think…

          • NBNAlex
            Posted 18/01/2013 at 11:12 am | Permalink |

            This is an evidence based forum, of which you have none…!

            Evaluation Report of the RFP’s 20 Jan 2009…

            “On 13 December 2008, the Panel met and considered the future of the Telstra Proposal in the NBN RFP process. The Panel considered legal and probity advice and Telstra’s response to the notification of the Panel’s preliminary view on the matter and concluded that Telstra had failed to submit a Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Plan as required under the RFP….

            On this basis, the Panel and the Commonwealth concluded that the Telstra Proposal had not met the conditions of participation for the RFP and Telstra’s Proposal was excluded from further consideration in the RFP process.”

          • Posted 18/01/2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink |

            Actually Alain’s right, Telstra’s exclusion from the process could rightfully be considered to have been on the basis of a minor detail — it was indeed a “technicality”. I believe that the panel did somewhat evaluate Telstra’s proposal anyway, but it was the small business technicality which formally excluded Telstra.

            • Posted 18/01/2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink |

              Most of the respondents – (read: everyone except Telstra) – submitted responses that ran into many hundreds of pages. Telstra submitted a 12-page letter.

              RFPs – (generally) – have strict guidelines as to format, contents, and other requirements. First and foremost, Telstra’s response didn’t comply.

              The response didn’t meet the guidelines – whether it was all about manipulating nefarious outcomes or not, their response couldn’t have been accepted, particularly when everyone else followed the rules.

            • Brendan
              Posted 18/01/2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink |

              You’re trying to suggest, that Australia’s key Telecommunications provider, with a broad contracting base, with having a very accomplished legal team, with (decades of) experience within the Competition and Communications legal framework in this country, not to mention successive years of outplaying the ACCC, somehow the accidental victim of a technicality?

              Remarkable.

              Telstra made a decision based on calculated risk. People assume their tender/ submission held accidental errors. Or perhaps should have been treated differently to others whom seemed to understand the framework just fine. I find that highly unlikely. They took a gamble. Gambling on a specific outcome, isn’t assured to work.

              Really, it’s water under the bridge at this point; Telstra has since inked a very profitable outcome and is free to continue to be a rather large part of a process that, at one point, it had no intention of consideration.

            • NBNAlex
              Posted 18/01/2013 at 3:13 pm | Permalink |

              Actually I don’t think he is right, because Telstra “failed to submit a Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Plan as required under the RFP”…

              It was a requirement and they did not provide it – period. Cya later. This is not pro-NBN or anti-Telstra, this is reality!

              So without wishing to whip up the wrath of the overlord, as an evidence based forum, I find it odd that anyone could consider otherwise, on an evidence basis.

              Funny though, Telstra submit a non-compliant bid and in some people’s eyes it’s a mere technicality and of no consequence. NBNCo miss a target and the same people suggest the world as we know it will end :/

          • Brendan
            Posted 18/01/2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink |

            alain,

            Trujilio tried to low-ball the federally elected government, by playing the odds. He failed. Then he left. Surprise. Are you still sore about that? I thought it was just a summer thing.

            Telstra made poor decisions, and like any vast company, was far too slow to react when senior management realised what was actually at stake. By that point any bargaining position was lost.

            Pretty much everyone else involved, seemed to be able to submit valid tenders and offers.

            Since then, Telstra has found a figure-head whom seems to be more in-line with board thinking. They’ve already moved on. Indeed, the NBN is probably better than building it themselves, a lot less investment and the Government was happy to pay them for access to assets; and a lot less regulation to be concerned about.

            It’s a shame, really, that you won’t actually get beyond the first sentence of this reply, before launching into another “it’s so unfair that the government didn’t do exactly what Telstra wanted..” complaint.

          • alain
            Posted 18/01/2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink |

            The point remains, a private/Government partnership without Telstra onboard was going nowhere fast, just like the G9 consortium (remember that farce?).

            Nothing has changed, Conroy was sweating on the Telstra/NBN deal, without the Telstra customer base being forced to come across the NBN was going nowhere fast also.

            • NBNAlex
              Posted 18/01/2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink |

              “The point remains, a private/Government partnership without Telstra onboard was going nowhere fast”.

              Psst… you are now arguing against your own conspiracy theory that the government wanted to intentionally omit Telstra :/

              “… just like the G9 consortium (remember that farce?).”

              I actually agree – G9/TERRiA was a farce imo and proven so as they didn’t even submit their own RFP, Optus bid on behalf of Optus…. ooh and BTW the other mob are with us too :(

            • Kevin Davies
              Posted 18/01/2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink |

              lol@alain it’s all about perspectives isn’t it. It wasn’t Conroy sweating anymore, they were going it alone and Telstra could go to hell for all they care. We know it, but it seems you need to be educated. In the end it was a smart move and brought Telstra to its knees. The government was more than prepared to build it without them and said so on multiple occasions. They made it clear that brinkmanship from Telstra was no longer acceptable. They either play ball or get out. In the end writing off their entire copper network at a loss was too much for them and they realised they needed to negotiate or the shareholders would rip them a new one. They got paid for the network and the pit access on reasonable terms but make no mistake, the tables were well and truly turned.

            • Brendan
              Posted 18/01/2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink |

              Actually the NBN policy went ahead, in spite of Telstra.

              That they (Telstra) went through a leadership shuffle, and took the deployment considerably more seriously when it became evident the policy wasn’t simply a media stunt, that they then held a shareholder vote on the matter, was simply a coincidence, right?

              Telstra may be the dominant player in the market, and hold a heck of a lot of clout (which isn’t in question); it’s that even it had to reassess the impact of the NBN.

              G9 was a knee jerk reaction to what as considered at the time to be an attempt by Telstra to gain funding and institute ever greater control over the market. A bunch of disperate people will happily combine to fight a perceived threat (when that became less of a concern, it’s hardly surprising it collapsed).

              Of course, none of this has anything to do with your hints of impropriety over the NBN tender process, which seem based more on conspiracy than actual.

              • alain
                Posted 19/01/2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink |

                Nothing to do with conspiracy theories I merely stated that once Telstra was eliminated from the RFP and it was on a technicality eliminating the other proposals was easy.

                • NBNAlex
                  Posted 19/01/2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink |

                  But you were and are wrong, because no matter how many times you repeat technicality, it was not a technicality… the pertinent part of the quote from the PoE as to why Telstra was omitted…

                  ” …Telstra had failed to submit a Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Plan as required under the RFP….
                  On this basis, the Panel and the Commonwealth concluded that the Telstra Proposal had not met the conditions of participation for the RFP and Telstra’s Proposal was excluded from further consideration in the RFP process.”

                  Telstra left put an entire plan. A plan which formed part of the pre-requisite for compliant submission and ergo breached the guidelines for their request to be accepted. That is NOT a technicality.

                  But of course, as usual, please continue by not letting those darn facts (as presented clearly right here for you to ignore) get in the way :)

      • NBNAlex
        Posted 17/01/2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink |

        Exactly right delphi +1.

        I too have mentioned on many occasions that within the RFP’s, the technology asked for wasn’t just FttN and I did so again, only this morning… as it is a pertinent point, imo.

        http://delimiter.com.au/2013/01/15/nbn-originally-just-a-media-stunt-says-ipa/#comment-562540

    10. Paul Thompson
      Posted 17/01/2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink |

      The first casualty of political partisanship is honesty.

      Renai, you will be waiting a long time for the IPA to correct themselves.

    11. CMOTDibbler
      Posted 17/01/2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink |

      Thanks Renai. Lots of very good information in the article and the links.

    12. Martin
      Posted 17/01/2013 at 4:44 pm | Permalink |

      Whether or not it was a media stunt, what will validate it is the actual rollout and connection of Australian homes.

      One of your own articles reports that there has been no real meaningful data yet, to indicate any real progress. (link in the first few paras of this article).

      If it fizzles, then media stunt or no, it will make Victoria’s hideously expensive desalination plant look like a paragon of success.

    13. Brett Haydon
      Posted 17/01/2013 at 5:34 pm | Permalink |

      Great journalism Renai.

      My alarm bells went off reading that article when they referenced pink batts and cost benefit analysis.

      It’s a furphy that a cost benefit analysis would have been done on this project by the Rudd government partly because the history of CBA’s being used by any Oz government is patchy, and as you demonstrate no-one wanted to suffer yet another govt dragging its feet on this issue.

      The other thing about CBA’s is the myth that they provide some kind of definitive answer on the path to take. Coming up with numbers to put in the ‘benefits’ column is probably about as accurate as any other economic forecast. At best they’re just wrong and at worst they are dangerously wrong.

      The benefit of a CBA applied to govt spending is probably in judging policies with no direct financial return. If the business plan says you’re going to lose money then it’s reasonable for the taxpayer to ask what’s on the other side of the ledger that justifies the expenditure. Even when it’s wrong it allows you to justify or question how high the expenditure should be.

    14. Posted 17/01/2013 at 6:55 pm | Permalink |

      Did I just witness journalism?

      • Posted 17/01/2013 at 10:54 pm | Permalink |

        It was an accident and I swear I won’t do it again.

        • TechinBris
          Posted 18/01/2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink |

          Bugger! I really enjoyed it. Go on Renai. Do it again! Few others in Oz are doing it. Dare to be different!

    15. ungulate
      Posted 17/01/2013 at 9:47 pm | Permalink |

      Ah yes, the IPA..

      http://ipa.org.au/publications/2080/be-like-gough-75-radical-ideas-to-transform-australia

      Some random selections..

      4 Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act
      15 Eliminate laws that require radio and television broadcasters to be ‘balanced’ [huh?]
      19 Abandon the paid parental leave scheme
      28 Abolish the Foreign Investment Review Board
      50 Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function
      72 Privatise the CSIRO

      and of course..

      69 Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built

      Why should anyone take them seriously? Sadly the ABC does

      http://www2b.abc.net.au/tmb/Client/Message.aspx?b=33&m=8734&ps=50&dm=1&pd=3

      Despite point 50 above :) oh dear..

      • tinman_au
        Posted 18/01/2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink |

        “50 Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function”

        Yeah, that’s just what we need, more commercially made free-to-air rubbish :/

        I’ve pretty well given up on TV, the ABC is almost the only channel I watch sometimes now days, the rest of the channels have mostly re-runs and US garbage.

        • Harimau
          Posted 18/01/2013 at 11:43 am | Permalink |

          I watch the ABC a little, but I still watch the SBS as well … and cooking shows.

          #69 is hilarious, it really demonstrates the bias against the NBN.

          … or any public ownership or government regulation. It seems that if it were up to the IPA, workers probably wouldn’t have any rights – we might as well not even have a government, because what would it be good for? I’m surprised “Scrap the ACCC” isn’t #76.

          Where is the real-world basis for these ideas, or failing that an analysis of the real-world impacts of such hypotheticals? Or is it really just working backwards (in more ways than one) from an ideology of small government and free capitalism?

          • PeterA
            Posted 18/01/2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink |

            No no; you’ve got it all wrong!!

            They are all for workers rights. Workers rights to quit their jobs where their bosses mis-treat them, and the right for them to setup their own company and mistreat their employees however they want!

            Maximum rights for everyone!

          • Abel Adamski
            Posted 18/01/2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink |

            Actually Harimau a more practical approach is evaluate the Nations in the world aginst those criteria in principle and assess the Social cohesion, living standards, economy and national stability.
            There are Nations that epitomize their ideals – generally places to avoid for any civilized person

      • Ben Zemm
        Posted 18/01/2013 at 10:51 pm | Permalink |

        I remember reading that list when it was first published and kept having to check I wasn’t reading The Onion!

    16. Jeremy Andrews
      Posted 18/01/2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink |

      Loved reading a well-written article, clearly and logically argued and very informative. Thank you

    17. Stephen H
      Posted 18/01/2013 at 11:23 am | Permalink |

      Very impressive research.

      I hadn’t actually noticed Australia’s media lurching to the left lately – maybe it’s Alan Jones’ influence. Presumably what the IPA means is “left of us”.

      Yes, it would be appropriate for the IPA to correct its initial report, and for anyone who reported it to provide an update that matched the original story in prominence. Chances? Poor to terrible.

    18. TechinBris
      Posted 18/01/2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink |

      “In addition, I want to point out that unlike many commentators, I don’t believe the IPA to be the evil, nefarious organisation that many people seem to think it is.”

      No, the Industrial Propaganda Association (IPA) are just so far out there on the right hand side of the field, they are lost out there on the fringe edge of extremism. That is a long way from reality of the average Australian’s existence and in the realm of Dream Merchants (fantasy). Trouble is, that most of their dreams are the stuff of nightmare to a lot of Australians, but not all unfortunately.
      And to think of what our Nation could have been. *sigh*

    19. Cameron
      Posted 18/01/2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink |

      Fantastic piece Renai. You done good journalism!

      (Only got around to reading it today)

    20. Chris
      Posted 18/01/2013 at 10:08 pm | Permalink |

      Haven’t read all comments, so apologies if this has already been noted.

      IPA further loses credibility by the suggestion that the media is not holding the Government to account on the NBN. Most of the reporting in the MSM has been quite critical of the NBN. The reporting in the Murdoch press in particular has been blatantly biased.




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