Turnbull confronts Google over NBN support


blog It was only several weeks ago that Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull claimed search giant Google and others were in “a conspiracy against the taxpayer” because they were supporting the NBN, because it would benefit their business and they wouldn’t have to pay for it to be built themselves. And now he’s done it again.

At the Broadband World Forum in Paris this week, according to an article posted on the conference’s site, Turnbull spoke directly after Google’s head of its own fibre program, Kevin Lo and said the following:

“Google has got a massive interest in building these networks and that’s why they’re a supporter of the NBN. If I was to build a 10-lane freeway all around my country and only allowed the trucking companies to use it. Then all the trucking operators would say to me, Malcolm – you are a visionary.”

After noting the “technical enthusiasm and exuberance” associated with the NBN, but also its high costs, the Liberal MP also reportedly turned to Lo and added regarding taxpayers’ money: “If you can make a buck out of it, god bless you, let us all know the secret.”

To be honest, I find it hard to disagree with Turnbull — Google, and other companies who provide online services, definitely have an interest in pushing for massive government funding of telecommunications networks. However, if the politician wants to get the technology sector on side, it’s perhaps not the best idea to go around slamming one of its shining lights so publicly. Basically everyone in Australia’s technology sector, after all, has an interest in seeing the NBN be built. Well, perhaps not Telstra … although its chief executive David Thodey seems pretty keen on it ;)

For those that are interested, Turnbull did give a wider speech at the forum about the NBN and the Coalition’s own telecommunications policy. We’ve heard it all before … but if you want a refresher you can read it online here.

Image credit: Delimiter


  1. How is it unusual that Google supports a project that is in its interest? I cannot see how it could be otherwise! Airlines would be in favour of improved airports, just as car rental firms would be in favour of improved roads.

    Also, I don’t buy Malcolm’s analogy – it would only apply if the NBN were restricting access to certain parties, but that isn’t the case. If he had left out the “… and only allowed the trucking companies to use it.” then that’s fine, but with it it is simply being ingenuous.

  2. With that said Google are also putting millions of their own dollars into wiring up cities in the US with 1Gbps FTTH.

  3. What a boor Turnbull is being. (Or, indeed, TurnBALL as the linked Broadband Forum piece would have it.)

    How utterly small and petulant he looks, airing so much domestic laundry on an international platform.

    Here’s a choice, cringe-making quote:

    “Are we so confident in our own innate genius to believe that our approach – a massive, new Government owned fixed line broadband monopoly – is correct and, as a consequence, every other country is wrong.”

    Thought we’d given up the Tall Poppy Syndrome. And thank heavens we can look to China as a country that would never deploy massive government resources for a game-changing infrastructure project.

  4. When the analogy is turned towards health, it’s somewhat amusing to ponder whether Turnbull would be for Medicare being abolished – after all, the majority of the people in favour of it are only in favour of it because it saves them money from their own pocket.

    • i feel that the liberals would do away with medicare in a flash if they thought they could do it without the people rioting in the streets.

      • They’ve already done it once. Medicare as we know it was brought in by the Hawke government in 1984 (to much protest by the Libs of course) but Medicare wasn’t our first national attempt at free universal healthcare. The Whitlam Labor government introduced Medibank, free healthcare for everyone, in 1975. The Fraser government split medibank into Medibank Private – a user pays options – and Medibank standard – the free version. Medibank standard was subsequently shut down in 1981. We’re the only country in the world to have done so.

  5. Google pay taxes, they are paying for the NBN just as i am.

    The small IT business i work for wants the NBN too. We would also benefit from it. Are we in a conspiracy against the taxpayer?

    Turnbull should really stop embarassing himself. Of course if the opposition leader had a brain and not just a relentless passion to be PM he may ask Turnbull to think before he opens his mouth.

  6. i’ve never liked abbott nor gillard and considered rudd and turnbull our obvious choices for real Statesmen (oops State-persons, don’t want to upset anyone, sigh), from either sides of the political divide.

    i have said, that even though i support the nbn, i could still be wooed to vote for the coalition if mal was leader. but sadly, with every sillier comment, he is seemingly disproving his perception as a Statesman, imo.

  7. I’m sure there’s a business case for companies like Google to pay for peering their traffic, to subsidise the cost for the consumer through free zones.

    But really – it’s a pretty dumb argument. Pretty much any utility you name, water, electricity, gas you can find some company who uses a crap load of it for next to nothing, compared to your average consumer.

  8. Business cases are often the problem. There isn’t much of a case for building a barely profitable but hugely beneficial fibre optic network when you can keep milking the copper you’ve got. If there was Telstra and others would have done so by now.

    The business case for a government though is different and can include the public good as a benefit, not just their personal profit. The main purpose of government after all isn’t to make money, it’s to benefit everyone in a largely fair and equitable way.

  9. Give Malcolm a couple of weeks and he will say something about needing Google involved he is good at contradicting himself.

  10. The government got $45 bil for selling telstra, they are investing $35bil in NBN.

    Net result is the government(s) taking $10 billion of the public’s money OUT of the industry.

    The long term view is that NBN is not costing taxpayers anything, it was paid for years ago.

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