Abbott just doesn’t get the NBN, says Gillard


Prime Minister Julia Gillard this morning accused Opposition Leader Tony Abbott of not understanding the technology behind the National Broadband Network, as the fibre-based project was formally launched on the mainland in the Northern NSW city of Armidale.

Last week, Abbott described Labor’s plan to invest billions of dollars of equity funding in the NBN as “reckless”, noting in his Federal Budget reply speech that the capital could be re-allocated to fund a number of major transport infrastructure and hospital projects.

“That $50 billion could fully fund the construction of the Brisbane rail loop, for instance, the duplication of the Pacific Highway, the Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail link, the extension of the M4 to Strathfield, and 20 major new teaching hospitals as well as the $6 billion that the Coalition has proposed to spend on better broadband,” the Opposition Leader stated, referring the unpopular broadband plan his side of politics floated during last year’s Federal Election.

As Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has previously highlighted, Abbott pointed out that broadband speeds of up to 100Mbps were already potentially available to “almost every major business and hospital”, as well as most schools, and, referring to the HFC cable networks offered by Telstra and Optus, through high-speed cable “already running past nearly a third of Australian households”.

However, speaking in Armidale yesterday at a school to launch the NBN in the city, Gillard said Abbott didn’t get it.

“Well Tony Abbott just doesn’t understand this technology, and he hasn’t got any plans for the nation’s future. I mean Tony Abbott is in the digital dark age — he is still scrabbling around trying to put a policy together as we are rolling out the NBN,” she said. “I think he’ll still be scrabbling around trying to put a policy together as the NBN comes on board in more sites in Australia.”

If Abbott wanted to understand the NBN, Gillard said, he should come to Armidale and talk to customers about how it was transforming “their businesses, their education, their local healthcare services, transforming the way farmers go about managing their land”. Gillard said farmers now had more information and more contact with agricultural researchers and scientists than they’ve had before.

“Tony Abbott might be in denial about the future, but the future is here right now, and he can come and see it in Armidale,” the Prime Minister said.

However, despite Gillard’s statement, it is not clear that any farmers in Armidale are currently connected to the NBN — with outlets such as today reporting that just seven customers are known to be on the NBN in Armidale. Internode has two (both IT workers), iiNet has several at the University of New England and Telstra has a handful.

Gillard’s full speech at the NBN launch in Armidale this morning can be found here below, as uploaded to YouTube by the Labor Party and broadcast by Sky News.


  1. Abbott is correct the NBN given Australia’s demographics is stupid and the person who does not understand the NBN is Gillard.

    • So, given that we’re not overpopulated, we’re not really important in the scheme of things, and the Internet is just a hedonistic materalistic desire… we shouldn’t try to have a decent system?

      I should relay that to Abbot, tell him how business is unimportant and doesn’t matter, since in the end money is just an illusion of happiness and we’d all be much better off frolicking naked in the grassy plains, while we soak in the glorious microwaves coming from the Coalition’s wireless incarnation of the NBN.

      That said, the NBN isn’t perfect, but it’s a longshot better than the Coalition’s now non-existent one. They should have just stuck with Howard’s original idea which would have been close enough to the NBN anyway but cheaper, which is what they were originally going for. Now it’s just “NBN? Bah, Labor thought of it so it’s clearly evil. Let’s explore alternative’s simply because, even if the alternatives are worse than harmless, reliable and relatively future proofed fibre optics”.

      Unless the Coalition plan on inventing something better than fibre optics (FTL – faster than light communications anyone?), they need to be more into negotiating rather than outright opposing. Labor might not be good but there’s nothing particularly attractive about the other side to justify a disorientating change of power.

      • “Howard’s original idea which would have been close enough to the NBN anyway”

        eh? iirc Howard’s original idea was the Opel project which would have been a wireless and ADSL2+ network no better than what we have now. Labour dumped Opel and proposed the FTTN network which the coalition suddenly thought was neat after Labour dumped that and proposed the FTTH NBN. So so much for their original plan, even they did not have much faith in it lol.

        • Ah yes, you’re right HC. I forgot completely about the Opel project. What on earth was I thinking when I said that? :) (then again, so far it does seem like a lot of policies today are just regurgitated ones from the Howard and Rudd election hehe).

          Wasn’t there some talk at one point that Howard said he’d have a fibre optic network around Australia, but not as fast as Labor ended up saying they’d do it but for a billion or so cheaper? Not that it matters now, but I swear there was a policy copying war going on for a bit on the matter.

          • I vaguely remember one of them (could have been Turnbull) saying something in the period between the FTTH announcement and the election last year but of course that quickly changed after the election since they underestimated how important the issue was and how much people wanted the Labor party NBN.

          • You ‘vaguely remember’ do you, ‘oh I’ vaguely remember’ he didn’t, there you go HC no fact argument the lazy way.

          • “You ‘vaguely remember’ do you”

            That’s right I vaguely remember, I’m being honest here, something that appears to be foreign to you. If I remembered who was yapping about it I would have told you exactly who it was and exactly what was said. Those are all facts.

    • “Abbott is correct”

      Abbott is incorrect, he doesnt have a clue about technology and even less about broadband, if he did he would have come up with something better than the appalling patchwork plan they tried to con the independents with.

      • You do understand that the entire Internet runs on a patchwork design? It was deliberately done that way in order to survive a nuclear attack, and be readily easy to rebuild should any central node be damaged.

          • I think we’ll have much bigger problems on our hands if we get nuked than rebuilding the internet. Preventing jamming would be important to help us in the event of an invasion, thus wireless isn’t exactly that attractive with that factored in, but if we’ve been nuked altogether, I doubt many people will be caring much about the internet.

            I personally would be leaving the country altogether if I was able to, or if I wasn’t vaporised already.

        • You’re talking about where the 5 original DNS servers were located, it would be true back then but now we have bombs capable of taking out 2 of those in one hit (San Diego and San Francisco I think they were located).

          Not that taking out a primary DNS server would make a difference today, there’s something like 20 spread all over the world now.

  2. If Abbott wanted to understand the NBN, Gillard said, he should come to Armidale and talk to customers about how it was transforming “their businesses, their education, their local healthcare services, transforming the way farmers go about managing their land”. Gillard said farmers now had more information and more contact with agricultural researchers and scientists than they’ve had before.

    What? From what I’m reading there are 7 customers so far?
    And how exactly has it transformed their lives in the few hours it’s been up for them?

    I’ll credit Gillard for trying to push the possible uses for the NBN, but as for understanding the technology, I’ll wager she doesn’t have a clue either.

    • It is a bit silly. I think the politicians are rushing things when we’re still well in the testing stage, if the 7 people who are using it on the mainland isn’t evidence enough :P

    • What? From what I’m reading there are 7 customers so far?

      Those are not customers, the network is still in the pre-commissioning test phase:

      “Media reports highlighting the few residents who have been carrying out initial testing on the network do not represent the level of interest, or the fact the copper network will be decommissioned as part of the agreement between Telstra and NBN Co, which is currently being finalised,” he said in a statement.

      Senator Conroy claimed it was a sensible and responsible approach to allow a small group to test the network for glitches before connecting customers up en mass.

      Quoted from here:

      Julia Gillard is perhaps jumping a bit ahead of herself with comments such as “the future is here right now” but sounds great as a quick sound bite.

  3. Now this brings up a very interesting question.

    Clearly both Gillard and Abbott are way way out of depth in their understanding of Telecommunications and Economics.

    I dont think either have anywhere near enough an understanding to form a coherent opinion.

    They are simply superficially parroting the position of their parties.

    But who is the greater fool ! I’d suggest it Gillard by a long way, for many reasons that are self evident.

    • You never did get around to your question. Or the “self evident” reasons though did you?

      Does the current government have a broadband policy? Yes, and they’re executing it.

      Does the opposition have a broadband policy?

      *crickets chirp*


      Yeah …. I’ll stick with the NBN policy we’ve currently got thanks.

      The only greater fool here is someone who’d support the opposition on their ….. errrr …. offering, lol.

  4. Given almost 30% of North American peak fixed traffic now comes from Netflix, it’s nice for Gillard to dress up the productivity applications, but without doubt the biggest usage for the NBN will be entertainment once the licensing catches up here. It’s how the NBN gets paid for, along with business usage.

    To market to Australian audience’s they don’t need many to sign up to the NBN straight out, just for the NBN to be available to be signed up to when they’re spending the marketing dollars, since provisioning a connection may only take around 5-10 minutes and be automated. We’re seeing the early incarnations of these deals with FetchTV and Telstra’s T-box etc, but I think it’ll get pretty hot pretty fast once overseas operators like Netflix decide to enter the market, and the NBN moves beyond testing.

  5. I completely disagree the statement that “Abbott doesn’t get the NBN”.

    While he’s certainly “no tech head” – (by his own admission, no less) – I have little doubt that he understands many of the potential benefits it can bring to the economy. Just as Malcolm Turnbull does.

    It is more a case of the Coalition seeing more benefit to them in bagging it out and preying on the lay-persons non-understanding of what it is and what it can do. All they have to do is talk about “fifty five thousand million dollars” and “biggest infrastructure project in the history of Australia” and the like, and the people who know nothing about it read it in the newspaper, and they believe it.

    The political points they believe they can gain by fudding the debate are more valuable to them then the potential long-term benefits to Australia. They believe only in the three-year political cycle, and getting into office. As the opposition, that’s their job.

    As much as the ALP are generally a bunch of monkeys who wouldn’t know a peanut from a banana, that doesn’t mean they don’t have good ideas every now and then.

    The NBN is one such idea, and it is suffering in the public eye because it spans more than one three-year political cycle. The Coalition know that, and are exploiting it.

    • Yup, Tony Abbott is a bona fide troll. If Malcolm were leader more likely they would have gone down the FTTN route as per the original Coonan tender in 2007.

      The differences between Labor and Coalition then would have have been over social equity and productivity benefits from the scale of the NBN project vs a rollout based on more predictable medium term demand by the winning tender. Telstra did us all a favour by sabotaging the original tender, and causing their original political masters such grief.

    • @Micheal Wyres

      “While he’s certainly “no tech head” – (by his own admission, no less) – I have little doubt that he understands many of the potential benefits it can bring to the economy.”

      He does? seeing the Coalition policy going into the last election of which they narrowly lost was a NO NBN platform in it’s current form and nothing I have read has changed their stance, it’s amazing you have come to that conclusion.

      Recent polls that put the Coalition ahead is based on NO NBN in its present Labor form and is the Coalition current platform policy.

      “and the people who know nothing about it read it in the newspaper, and they believe it.”

      … or they could read comments in websites like this and get a totally unbiased objective view of the rollout, then again perhaps it’s best stick to the newspapers eh MW?

      “The political points they believe they can gain by fudding the debate are more valuable to them then the potential long-term benefits to Australia”

      Assuming there ARE long term benefits to Australia.

      • In my opinion, yes he does. There are a raft of advisers in regards to just about any subject hanging around the various parliamentary parties, and I’m sure he’s been briefed any number of times.

        Recent polls that put the Coalition ahead are pretty much all carbon tax related – but you’d just love it to be about the NBN, wouldn’t you?

        Once again trying to twist things to suit your position.

        • Well I am surprised as anyone that polls put someone like Abbott and Hockey ahead for any reason, but there you go the fickle electorate if it is in the mood usually punishes the incumbent Government, the only way they can do that is vote for the Opposition, they may have not a clue if the Opposition has good policies or not, NBN included, but that’s not the point of their vote.

          • Well people dissatisfied with both the major parties could always vote for an independent. You can talk to the people of Armidale about that ;-)

  6. It always amazes me that people do not recognise the value of this investment. We should stop being selfish and think of the children.

    • It always amazes me that people do not recognise the extravagance of fibre-to-the-home. We should stop being selfish and re-think our spending priorities.

      • So we can do full on wireless and find out in 50 years time that the omnipresence of all this wireless crud is causing cancer? ;) That said, there are ways the NBN as a fibre optics network can be rethunk, or at least structured in a way that the whole “to the home” bit can be put off without having to redo things so we can temporarily divert funds to things like hospitals. To can the whole project would be a bit extreme though despite its flaws.

        Anyway, none of us in particular are being selfish really since in the end it’s the government that’s the ones making these decisions ;) Now, if only we had a system where the public had a say in these things. What a lovely thing. I vote we should call this fantastical concept “democracy”….

      • It’s not selfish when you’re building it for the next generation. If we were selfish we would have just built fttn or a patchwork and let the kids deal with it in 20 years.

        Instead we build it in 10 and we’re set for the next 40+ like we have been with copper.

        • “It’s not selfish when you’re building it for the next generation.”

          Let’s not worry about the next generation, we need to determine if the current generation actually need it first!

          Although it is incredibly selfish knowing that the next generation of taxpayers will be still paying it off.

          • Absolute typical FUD and lies… next generation of taxpayers still paying it off…!

            It will be paid of via patronage not taxes… by 2034 and you know that.

            It’s just that that hole you have dug yourself into, is now so deep you can’t escape and that ego won’t let you admit it and simply ask for a hand, to escape from your own hole…

          • Just hopped into the Tardis and checked out 2034 have you?

            Paid for by ‘patronage’ LOL – they will have to get out of that ‘give it away to get punters to sign up’ syndrome first, I predict this will be the longest pilot phase in the history of all pilot phases.

          • Of corse one FUDster who posts relentlessly, with no factual basis and childish fantasy, thinks he knows better than the learned experts, LOL…..


            Pg 30…NBN Co. expects to pay cash dividends, beginning in 2020, which in the aggregate would repay the government’s entire investment by 2034, even if no shares of NBN Co were sold to private investors. Since such dividends would be paid out of earnings, NBN Co. would continue to be appropriately capitalized and capable of being floated in the public market whenever the government chose to do so. {END}…

            Keep trying tiger, with ever comment you dig that hole of stupidity, deeper and deeper…!

          • With that kind of blind faith you really should get down to the casino more often. Their whole business plan is built on people who are willing to overlook the facts.

          • There are 2 choices…

            1. We believe (with the a little trepidation) the “reasoned forecasts”, outlined in the business plan. Seriously, what’s the point in demanding a business plan (or CBA) if the findings are simply going to be ignored?

            2. We believe a chorus of “baseless negativity”, that the NBN will be a failure.

            I choose 1. you choose 2.

            Time (including a possible change of government) will prove which was right!

          • I choose to believe with 3) Baseless positivity – C’mon, whatever happened to we Aussies being such good, supportive sports? ;)

            As for question of “does the current generation need it?”, well, technically no. We also don’t need electricity, a military (actually, this one is theoretically more dispensable than the NBN IMHO. A paramilitary style federal police unit could theoretically do all our SDF needs), we also don’t need an automotive industry, hairdressers, bakeries, a government, or running water.

            Why don’t we just be unambitious fellows living the simple life, with nothing but half a kangaroo pelt to cover our privates?

          • Indeed…LOL!

            I stand corrected 3. options.

            And the good thing about your last sentence, the naysayers would only need a quarter of a roo pelt, as they have no balls!

          • Let’s see a service with a mandate to act in the public interest funded by cross subsidising cost from more profitable areas. Where can I find one of those already working oh wait there it is
            We did have one of those for communications systems until it was sold off.
            We still barely have one of those for power water and sewage systems but that one is a state government issue.

          • Miscellaneous retail like Australia Post Stores? If that’s so though, this sounds a lot like forming Telstra Mark II.

      • tosh you know full well the NBN will pay itself off by 2034…

        Then we (as opposed to private enterprise, via $b’s of gifted taxpayer subsidies) will own a multi-$b asset for the Coalition government to sell and say, look at what great fiscal managers we are, just as they did with Telstra (and ast time of course, introducing a GST)..

        Anyone can sell assets and introduce an all encompassing tax, to make money. Where the juggling act comes in, is where critical infrastructure which has been left degrading, needs updating… once all the assets have been sold and without having another all encompassing tax (or an increase to the existing one) to fall back on…

        Ooh and BTW I’m as much to blame as anyone I voted for them…

  7. It’s infrastructure projects which fund the country during times of financial hardship.

    Money isn’t real people.

    $50bn is just a number.

    The economy is a party trick, and the longer you can keep the plates spinning, the more it thrives.

    Why? When people spend money, they pay taxes, When people pay taxes, the government can do things with it. When the things they do with it pay people’s wages, those people pay more taxes, and the money that’s not taxed gets spent which in turn pays other people’s wages who get taxed, etc.

    The big tax machine means the more the government “stimulate” the economy, the more money they have to spend. Around and around it goes.

    It all goes to heck though when people get scared and start hoarding their money. That’s why governments go out of their way to invest in infrastructure projects at times like the GFC. It doesn’t really matter what it is, What matters is that a lot of people are getting paid, and the outlay will come back in as taxes and the government can re-spend it on other things.

    When people say things like “OMG, I can’t believe the government spent $X on Y.” just think to yourself. Does it matter? They got $X/3 back already in income tax, and it’s only round one. The remaining portion is burning a hole in people’s pockets, and they’re gonna spend another chunk of what’s left in the next week on food and drink, paying 10% GST. Then the companies which got the patronage have to pay income tax, and wages to their staff who will get taxed again. Within the course of a month, over half the outlay will be back in the coffers.

    It’s a stupidly simple model of the way the economy works, and in real life it’s a lot more complicated because of loans, debts, imports, exports, investments, forex, etc, but basically it’s not too far from the mark.

    I’m not a big supporter of Labor, but as far as I see it, they were both going to do near-enough the same thing. However it’s the opposition’s job to complain about whatever the government is doing and say it’s wrong, and point out the big scary number which actually just paid for your last nights’ dinner. It’s kinda childish and just once I’d like to see them say: “Hey, good job. That’s what we were gonna do”, but it’ll never happen.

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