Telstra deal: Has NBN reached “point of no return”?


blog With NBN Co’s $11 billion deal with Telstra expected to be signed tomorrow, and much talk of a similar deal with Optus also about to be announced, is Labor’s ambitious NBN policy about to reach the point of no return — the point at which it will be impossible for the Coalition to stop the NBN juggernaut if they take office?

On the eve of a likely announcement, that’s the question that the ABC’s 7:30 show asked this evening. The full video and transcript is available online here, including this intriguing quote from Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull:

“There’s no doubt the Government is setting this up to make it difficult for future governments to take a more cost-effective, responsible approach. … So there are tens of billions of dollars, we believe, that are being spent unnecessarily here, and at some point, whether it’s a Coalition government or indeed a Labor government, I have no doubt that the rising cost of this is going to result in a redesign.”

I’d hate to be the man that walked into NBN Co’s North Sydney offices in 2013 after the next Federal Election and told the company’s staff that after almost half a decade of effort, the NBN had to go through a “redesign”. Seems like there might be an awfully large number of resignations at that point, including, we suspect, the company’s chief executive Mike Quigley. In any case, it’ll be interesting to see what comes out of tomorrow.

Image credit: Zoran Ozetsky, royalty free


  1. Cost-effective, yes, what you purpose is that. But responsible? You know there is more to that word than just making the books balance I hope Mr Turnbull. Because so far, that, questioning the choice of executives, and a fabled belief that we don’t need and won’t need the bandwidth that fibre can offer, is all you have offered.

    I’ve seen more reasoned arguments floating around, why do you only seem to use these three? Is it because if you made the Labor government aware of them they might actually, god forbid, address them?

    • He missed the benefit part of cost benefit, and apparently already knows what the outcome of any analysis would be. Perhaps he should just call for a popular vote.

  2. I guess it’s safe to assume that the deal will go ahead now since Turnbull looked absolutely haggered in that video, you can see the look of defeat in his face lol :-)

  3. IMO, the NBN is to the point of no return…regardless of where it is up to, but by choice all round…

    The Coalition I believe, see the NBN as a real boon and a win/win. They can spread FUD and have their minions in forums such as here, also do so. They can bag the “commies” for nationalising, claim waste, overkill, make political points and create voter disharmony/backlash (as they have done and done nicely)

    But in the end they aren’t stupid, they know Australia needs to upgrade comms and need to deal with Telstra, which frankly they didn’t/wouldn’t have had the balls to do themselves. So while they will make much political gain out of NBN bagging, imo, they are actually thrilled that Labor did it and took the heat.

    So by “now backing away from their scrapping the NBN at all costs” (which has already started) and blaming the government for making it unstoppable (more political gamesmanship) if/when elected, the current opposition can appease those they have whipped into NBN hatred by saying “rest assured, while we are ‘unable’ to stop it as planned, we will make the necessary changes to save the poor hurting taxpayer”. But of course basically make little or no alterations…! All they’ll have to or will do, is, put the feet up, laugh at how gullible the electorate was/is, find Quigley beyond reproach after all and just let NBNCo continue!

    Because the pro-NBNers will be relieved, as we will still be getting the NBN. The anti-NBNers (who know no better than to blindly believe whatever the opposition says anyway) will be happy as we will be getting a “different more frugal NBN (LOL)” and in the end the opposition will come out smelling like roses! “If all goes per their plan”…!

    The NBN and Telstra struggle is actually a political minefield for any government and a goldmine, which any opposition could only dream for, imo!

    • +1

      I don’t know that they’ve been making that much headway on that front, but nonetheless I’m exactly in agreement. Turnbull practically admitted the cost benefit analysis would be an exercise in getting an outcome that vindicates him.

      I don’t really care at this point, it’s a done deal, that they won’t be unwinding. The politics of making Labor look wasteful is a short term political point scoring exercise that becomes irrelevant in 10 years time when the true value (or lack thereof) of the network will become known.

      • @Brett Haydon

        “The politics of making Labor look wasteful is a short term political point scoring exercise that becomes irrelevant in 10 years time when the true value (or lack thereof) of the network will become known.”

        It won’t be irrelevant in determining who the Government is post 2013, Labor has even lost a lot of its gloss with some of the MP’s that put them in power, the Independents.

        • Whatever.

          I want an NBN, and that’s what I’m getting. What happens to Labor is entirely secondary. If I had to make a trade between the NBN and another Labor term I’d happily accept the NBN.

          Politicians and parties will come and go. The NBN is for 20+ years.

    • “They can spread FUD and have their minions in forums such as here, also do so.”

      I noticed they are out in full force today on ZDnet, must be their last hurrah :-)

  4. you guys don’t get it.

    this HUGE project carries many RISKS.

    the “political risk” of a change in Government resulting in scrapping the project is just ONE of MANY risks.

    even if Labor holds on to office at the next election, there’s a high likelihood that other problems will arise that derail the project as it is currently planned or scoped.

    of course, to recognise this, you’d actually need to have a genuine appreciation of the nature of this project and the various risks that could eventuate… as opposed to “waaaahh! waaaah! waaah! i want my fibre! i’ll die without fast internet!”

    this socialist crackpot scheme of “fibre for all” is so ridiculous and plain stupid, it’ll fall apart or implode by itself… even without political intervention.

    • Wait, wait, you’re under the deluded assumption that we aren’t aware of the risks and it is your solemn duty to inform of us those risks?

      Here I was thinking you were just trolling. Afterall, it seems lately you’ve thrown all logical argument out the window. My mistake.

      Well, just so you don’t have to waste your effort here anymore: Tosh, we are aware of the risks, and after evaluating them, we still consider the NBN the best move for Australian Broadband compared to all others that have been put on the table.

      Yes, a few of the people in support of the NBN could be a little less of the repeating the rhetoric and a bit more of the let’s discuss the issues, but hey, can’t really blame them for appreciating a good idea now can we?

    • Noted.

      I’ve read reams of pages about the pro’s & con’s, and I don’t get how significant the risks are.

      Come back to me at the end of 2013 when you can demonstrate how deluded we all were.

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