No, Minister: The Tasmanian NBN rollout has not stopped



This post is by Michael Wyres, a fifteen-year veteran of the IT industry who has covered roles in the public and private sectors across network engineering, support and development. He currently works as a VoIP solutions developer for a private company in Melbourne. This article was first published on his blog and is re-published here with his permission.

opinion/analysis Amidst the ramping up of the new Australian government, and with reviews of just about everything under the sun underway, we see yet more incorrect statements from incoming federal Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull in regards to the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Turnbull claimed on ABC Radio in Hobart that the rollout of the NBN in Tasmania had stopped, that “they’ve basically downed tools”:

Mr Turnbull says the federal government will honour existing contracts if the contractor is able to meet them, but says he has seen no reports of progress in Tasmania for months.

“As far as we can see no work has been done by Visionstream for at least two months and they’ve basically downed tools,” says Mr Turnbull. “The bottom line is that there is nothing I can do, not one thing I can do to stop the NBN rollout in Tasmania because it has been stopped for several months.”

The key statement here is “because it has been stopped for several months“, but it seems this claim is unsubstantiated. The report continues:

“Mr Turnbull’s claims that no work has taken place in Tasmania in the last two months regarding the rollout of the fibre optic cable was instantly challenged by listeners to ABC Local Radio by text and on Twitter, as reports came in o [sic] people seeing Visionstream workers working in Kingston, Launceston and Beaconsfield in the last week.”

The following photos – (used with permission) – from local resident James Abbott, show working continuing both last week, and even this morning in the Acton Park area:



This shows – at the very least – that Turnbull is quite happy to speak out in the media about what he believes is the case, without truly confirming the veracity of his claims. It could even be just out-and-out deception. It is certainly not the first time bogus claims about the NBN have come from he and his party, and it is becoming an ongoing pattern.

The comments appear to relate to the Telstra asbestos scare, in which duct and pit remediation work on behalf of NBN Co was halted, including in Tasmania. This remediation work has well and truly recommenced, and work did continue in other areas not affected by the asbestos scare and shutdown of the remediation work.

Further comments from former advisor to Labor Communications Ministers Stephen Conroy and Anthony Albanese, David Hayvatt, back this version of events and further verify the misleading nature of Turnbull’s latest comments:

“This is technically incorrect because the contractor was still at work in areas not affected by the remediation pause, and has restarted work already. This is typical Malcolm Turnbull. Rather than directly respond to the fact that he knows he misled Tasmanians he reaches for a distraction with a false claim about current roll-out.”

It is all very well – (and likely pertinent) – for the new government to conduct a review of just about everything on the books, including the NBN. They would however be better served being a little more thorough and – (more importantly) – a little more accurate in what they say.

Right? Because in this case, Turnbull is just wrong. Again.

Visionstream has also subsequently also debunked Turnbull’s claims:

“The spokesperson said the company was currently undertaking “construction of fibre servicing area modules (FSAM) in Launceston, a large amount of aerial cabling across the state, and is issuing tenders for new construction civil works as work packages are released by NBN.”

Image credit: BBC


  1. Let’s think about a few things surrounding this. One, Turnbull could hardly damage his brand among the tech community any more than he already has. Someone random with a camera just has to find a drum, take a picture of it and post it online. Done. Two, rumours were he was going to put Wal King on the NBN Co board, ex-boss of Visionstream owners Leighton, who has also recently been engaged in a corruption scandal. Three, Syntheo has been kicked off previously for not building the damn thing.

    Maybe, based on all that, another point of view is that Turnbull deliberately lied to force Visionstream to publicly come out and say they’re making progress in fulfilling the contract.

    He’s not going to damage the Leighton share price, embroiled in other news, he’s not going to damage his own reputation any further, he gets an out from any backroom deals regarding Wal King, he might just get accountability from one of the contractors and, in daring them into saying that they’ll never finish by 2015, he might just get them to actually finish the thing by 2015.

    Just as another point of view.

    • > The bottom line is that there is nothing I can do, not one thing I can do to stop the NBN rollout in Tasmania because it has been stopped for several months.

      > The key statement here is “because it has been stopped for several months“, but it seems this claim is unsubstantiated.

      I don’t think the key statement here is that, I think it’s “there is nothing I can do” which, pointing at Syntheo, and at the degree of leverage he surely must have over them in various ways, is just as discernible as that picture. I’d argue that he just doesn’t want to play his hand yet, and saying anything else other than the tired old “Labor sucks”, “NBN rollout slow” rhetoric would force him to.

  2. Perhaps looking for complicated reasons, ignores Occams Razor.

    Thus far, NBNco have been pretty guilty of overestimating how much they could achieve in a given time period. That and negotiation with Telstra, and inevitable discoveries of asbestos.

    Net effect? Slower than anticipated output and thus revised numbers.

    Ask Turnbull, though, and he’ll come up with dozens of apparent failings. The sky is genuinely, literally falling. No-one is at the controls. Some guy who is supposedly pretty sketchy with no experience is at the helm. We’re all going to die. Etc.

    This is, very much based on the now well developed pattern, a relatively simplistic, concerted effort to undermine and discredit NBNco, that it be may be reborn (or die) under LNP reform. From personal snipes at NBNco staff, scare-mongering over Quigley’s history, inflating numbers (and then bold face inventing numbers that have no basis) demanding the entire Board quit, misrepresenting actions, you name it.

    Assigning some kind of complex conspiracy sounds great, but probably oversells Turnbull’s efforts. The guy just wants to watch NBNco burn, so he can “save” us.

    • Why tell a completely obvious lie (and yes, I’m calling it that) that could be disproven merely by driving around with a camera or the contractor?

      And then says that there’s nothing he can do about it?

      I just don’t think the Coalition is quite that moronic now that they’re in government. There’s still plenty of room to show Labor’s NBN is a failure in other more subtle ways that don’t seem quite as much egg on face.


      • If he does anything, he owns the problem. If he doesn’t, it’s Visionstream’s problem. And this might have just been a way to point the finger.

        • Or it might have been yet another bit of politicised nastiness, figuring correctly that a large part of main stream media are only too happy to run big “NBN Fails Again” headlines.

      • Yeah look, conspiracy theories aside (spooks are everywhere, man) there’s a pretty simple explanation.

        Turnbull has set about to prove NBNco is incompetent, in order that he may then restructure it. It’s also standard operating procedure for LNP politicians to place government sponsored enterprises at arms length, and or preferably destroy in order that it becomes a free market problem.

        Recent history. Telstra. Sold lock-stock to make a buck and, frankly, make it the market’s problem to resolve.

        There’s nothing particularly suave and secretive about Abbott and Turnbull’s machinations here. Simple, blunt attempts to discredit, disavow and blame others for something they have inherited and really do not want.

        Turnbull likes to play the blame game. Nothing new there.

    • I’d like to see some evidence that “The sky is genuinely, literally falling.”

  3. Technically Turnbull was not telling a lie as the build had indeed halted, I understand because of the asbestos pits requiring remediation.
    He just didn’t put his statement in context.
    I’ll give him ten points for creative honesty.
    If this is representative of open and honest facts and non politicization of the NBN, God help us!
    In fact is there any political commentry that Turnbull makes that isn’t esoteric?

    • It was never halted, as David Havyatt pointed out.

      A high percentage of the Tasmanian rollout is overhead, so when the remediation was halted for the asbestos drama, they concentrated on overhead areas.

      There’s certainly evidence things have slowed, but this is a pretty binary question.

      Has the/Did the rollout stop?


  4. What were the usual suspects NBN detractor/Coalition pawns told…?

    These are politicians whether Labor or Coalition, if you think one is any more able to build an NBN (let alone run the country) than the other, you are sadly deluded…

    Seems the new comms Minister hasn’t even got the facts relating to his own portfolio (if that’s the political terminology I’m after) or his own broadband plan…FFS

    Imagine the rhetoric from these usual suspects had this been Quigley or Conroy making such a rudimentary mistake and accompanying dumb comment…


  5. If Tassie end up getting the whole shebang it could provide an interesting A/B comparo if most of the rest of us poor buggas only get fttn (or some other mix). Libs mightn’t be too keen on that.

    • Not necesarily.

      The NBN (was) so good, because it provided an entrypoint for up-to 4 completely seperate IP based upto-1000 megabit technologies to be purchased by 93% of Australia.

      Be-it a multicast IPTV, Internet plan, local-network or whatever.

      Replace that with a “technology agnostic” network; that provides a single variable speed (25-100) megabit link in to 73% of homes, and the potential for unique and genuinely new products drops back to a list of the same ISPs we’ve all seen before.

      Finishing it in Tasmania is a good start, but their market is so small, the really unique even experimental businesses just won’t happen. There won’t be the critical mass an Australia wide network could provide.

      • But hey, I’ve been spotting NBN contractors in my street starting as of 2 weeks ago. So I’m getting *my* fibre. I really am sad that some very interesting products won’t exist on it, and it’ll just be my ISP pipe.

  6. I say stuff the Tasmanians, they can’t get FTTN like the rest of us. If it was such a huge issue they shouldn’t have voted libs.

Comments are closed.