CeBIT: Bartlett slams ‘uninformed’ NBN media sideshow


The former Premier of Tasmania and one of the architects of the early National Broadband Network rollout in the state has slammed what he has described as “stupid, uninformed debate” from much of Australia’s media over what he saw as tiny issues in the rollout of the network over the past year.

David Bartlett is a former IT worker who served as the state’s Labor Premier from 2008 through to January this year, right through the period when the current NBN policy was developed and implementation commenced made the comments in a passionate speech to the CeBIT trade fair and conference series in Sydney this morning, in one of his first major speeches since quitting state parliament entirely several weeks ago.

The politician said he was concerned by the “constant attention” on issues such as NBN take-up rates in the early stage rollout Tasmanian towns of Smithton, Midway Point and Scottsdale, with the media reporting often that rates for the take-up of NBN services of 19 percent, or 50 percent for fibre infrastructure connections, weren’t enough.

To illustrate his view of this line of reporting, Bartlett told the audience that when the state constructed its first hydroelectric power plant in 1916, the state’s Premier at that stage, (believed to be Sir Walter Lee) gave “a fantastic speech” in support of the initiative, which Bartlett had personally memorised.

“At that time, when the first poles and wires were taking electrons across the wires to industry, do you think a sensible question from a journalist would have been that nobody has taken this up yet, so the project’s been a failure?” he asked. Bartlett pointed out that it took Tasmanian residents and businesses time to migrate off previous forms of energy such as gas and on to the new electricity standard. And yet, in 2011, he implied, electricity usage was universal.

“It would seem a fairly ignorant question in retrospect, and I would put the general media commentary about take-up rates in a similar basket in that respect,” he said.

Not only were the Tasmanian take-up rates higher than expected, Bartlett said – a fact, he noted, that Communications Minister Stephen Conroy had repeatedly emphasised – but many of the residents he had spoken to in Midway Point were currently locked into contracts for 12 months with their existing ISPs – typically Telstra – and were waiting for those contracts to end before switching to the NBN fibre.

Bartlett singled radio host Alan Jones our particularly for a poor understanding of the NBN.

Last week, Jones referred on air to a research breakthrough in Germany which could see optic fibre speeds boosted dramatically as a negative, in what appeared to be a misunderstanding to the effect that the technology the researchers were using was the same technology being deployed as part of the NBN. Jones claimed that the German discovery showed that the NBN would be 2.6 million times slower than what could be possible through the new research.

“I recently heard Alan Jones talk about the NBN with “lasers”,” said Bartlett, raising his hands above his head and motioning quotation marks in what appeared to be a mocking fashion. “This is what we’ve come to, we’re going to come to take engineering advice from talkback radio,” he said.

“Of course, there will continue to be debate, and should be debate about an expenditure of this size and scope — but lets not kill the goose which laid the golden egg with stupid uninformed debate about this piece of infrastructure.”

The comments come as debate continues to swirl within the political arena about a book published this year by former Finance Minister and long-term Labor MP Lindsay Tanner, which criticised the media and politicians for the shallowness of the current national debate.

“After spending much of my life dedicated to the serious craft of politics, I have to admit that I am distressed by what it is becoming,” wrote Tanner in the book, titled The Sideshow: Dumbing down Democracy. “Under siege from commercial pressures and technological innovation, the media are retreating into an entertainment frame that has little tolerance for complex social and economic issues. In turn, politicians and parties are adapting their behaviour to suit the new rules of the game — to such an extent that the contest of ideas is being supplanted by the contest for laughs.”

Stay tuned for further coverage of Bartlett’s wide-ranging speech.

Image credit: Delimiter


  1. Sensible, informed and intelligent points raised by Bartlett as usual. One of the best Politicians Tasmania has ever had. While Lara Giddings is doing a good job as his successor, a lot of really miss Bartlett as premier for obvious reasons.

    He’s one of the few politicians that truly understands the potential of the NBN and made many Tasmanians understand the way it would greatly benefit our state. Great to see him now speaking out on a national level and bringing solid facts to the debate.

    • WHAT

      How dare he bring ‘solid facts’ to the debate. This is an outrage…..

    • “He’s one of the few politicians that truly understands the potential of the NBN”

      Indeed but if the residents in the rollout areas are not really interested a little opt out ‘shove’ won’t hurt the statistics eh?

      “THE State Government is considering an “opt-out” rather than the current “opt-in” system to improve the take-up of the new high-speed internet National Broadband Network.

      Premier David Bartlett admitted yesterday that only half the 4000 houses eligible for the nation’s first NBN rollout in Tasmania had accepted the offer of cable links into their homes.”

      “and made many Tasmanians understand the way it would greatly benefit our state.”

      Really? – it’s not working then.

        • What does pointless, incessant, ant-NBN grandstanding, have to do with the article/topic or facts…?

        • Yeah I read the article, I missed the figures mentioned, perhaps you could point them out?

          1. What were the predicted uptake figures BEFORE the rollout started, that we way we can objectively determine the ‘as expected’ comment, all uptake hindsight figures are ‘as expected’ in that case eh?

          2. How many customers in Midway Point have put off signing up with the NBN because they are on contracts mainly with BigPond? – ‘many’ is what exactly? Midway Point is one of three rollout areas, what about the others?

  2. Couldn’t agree more. My only hope is the rest of the media takes this onboard and actually debates the NBN properly.

    As amusing as Alan Jones on Lasers vs the NBN it only serves to confuse the public about what the NBN is, good or bad.

    It also concerns me that this isn’t just limited to the NBN debate.

    • Yes but taking one states shock jock comments to a limited audience as being in any way representative or influencing the national view of the NBN is total rubbish.

      Mocking the ‘laser’ comments is easy meat, pity he didn’t spend more time analyzing the poor uptake in his own state even though they were virtual giveaway pilot plans and making some informed predictions on takeup in Tasmania’s Stage 2 areas, and I mean takeup on a active NBN ISP plan not the spin hype about ‘free connections’.

  3. Sugar coat it all you like, but he is an atypical conservative/elderly voter, who (imo, like your self) has proven beyond doubt, that he has absolutely no idea what-so-ever…

  4. “stupid, uninformed debate”

    Is an understatement and unfortunately stupid uninformed people lap this stuff up (The Alan Jones stuff is a prime example). They are angry at the world for their personal problems and like to blame the government for everything even when they do something right like the NBN.

  5. If the NBN was able to be viable from day one, it would have been constructed already by private enterprise.

    I personally do not give a s&@t if it is not
    Making a profit at this minute, because in the long term it can only make a profit. It’s only a matter of time -Even Alain has realises this.

    At the end of the day, when FUDsters cry about current targets and uptakes, all they are doing is whinging, “Are we there yet?”.

  6. Jasmcd…I agree…

    Had a nationwide network been a financial bonanza, we wouldn’t need the current NBN, it would already be built or underway. Hence the smaller/fairer ROI, sought by the government (which should in turn, basically, equate to cheaper prices, than private enterprise would require)…

    However, alain has actually said he believes “the NBN will be a failure like HFC before it”…

    Ooh, but of course only one week before that he also said, “you betcha the NBN will be a success, that’s how monopolies work”…

    So who knows what he thinks, when he doesn’t even know…!

    I guess this way he can, as expected and most adultly say “told ya so”, no matter what…!

    • Still desperately copying and pasting me out of context across subject matter from stuff months old, you really have nothing new and relevant to say on anything anymore do you?

Comments are closed.