NBN enjoys prolonged popular support


news The results of a new poll released this week by research houses Essential Media and Your Source has shown that Labor’s flagship National Broadband Network policy has continued to enjoy strong levels of popularity, especially amongst Labor and Greens voters, since the last Federal Election.

The poll was taken by Australian social and market research company Your Source. The organisation sent out between 7,000 and 8,000 invitations to respond to each poll it conducts, from which it usually receives about 1,000 responses. Essential Media didn’t provide any more specific information about the response rate for this specific poll.

Over the past week the company polled its audience with the following question: “From what you’ve heard, do you favour or oppose the planned National Broadband Network (NBN)”? The response displayed an enduring level of support for the NBN, with 56 percent of total respondents supporting the NBN in total, compared with 25 percent opposed and 19 percent stating that they didn’t know.
Just 10 percent of those polled strongly opposed the NBN, while 20 percent strongly favoured the project. Amongst Labor and Greens voters who responded to the poll, support was the strongest, with 80 percent and 77 percent supporting the initiative, 42 percent of Coalition voters supported it.

Over the past 14 months since September 2010, Your Source has asked respondents the same question on three other occasions, with respondents displaying a very similar support rate for the project — ranging from 48 to 56 percent. Those opposing the project have ranged from 19 percent of respondents to 27 percent.

The polling echoes internal Coalition research.

A landmark internal report handed down in mid-2011 into the Coalition’s loss in the 2010 Federal Election highlighted a failure to adequately respond to Labor’s flagship National Broadband Network plan as a key reason for losing valuable votes, especially in the sensitive Tasmanian electorate, which is receiving the network before the rest of the nation.

The majority of the report did not mention the NBN, but one section quoted extensively from a similar report produced last year by Sydney academic Julian Leeser into the Tasmanian leg of the election, which has been reported in brief.

“The failure to properly explain the Liberal Party’s broadband policy and the Labor Party’s effective scare campaign was a major cause of the party’s failure to win seats in Tasmania,” the report states. “This was the nearly universal review of people making submissions to the review and is borne out by research undertaken by the Liberal Party. In the view of many, the party’s policy amounted to a threat to come into people’s homes and rip the Internet out of the wall.”

The report added that the NBN policy had a particularly strong effect on Tasmania for a number of reasons. For starters, the fibre network was already being rolled out in some towns, and Tasmania is also often behind the mainland in receiving new technology — so the early stage NBN rollout was seen as a boost to the state, as well as having flow-on effects in terms of jobs, for example.
In comparison, the Liberals’ policy was not as clear-cut as Labor’s.

“One of the problems of the broadband policy was that nowhere in the policy document was there any carve-out for Tasmania or any explanation of what the Liberal Party would do with existing infrastructure,” wrote Leeser in the report. “Numerous senior Liberals in Tasmania had raised the issue of broadband in Tasmania with senior Federal Liberals in Canberra, but a carve-out for Tasmania was forgotten.”

“The broadband policy was written at the last minute without a set of Tasmanian eyes cast over it. The party needs to make a clear and unambiguous statement about its intentions on broadband infrastructure in Tasmania in the future.”

During the 2010 Federal Election, it was very apparent to technology journalists that the population broadly supported the NBN and that, in a campaign which at times seemed to have no real focus, this was one of the real concrete policy differences between the two sides of politics. Had Labor not had the NBN, it may not have taken Government by the slim thread it did. And had the Coalition had a cohesive telecommunications policy and not suffered the policy launch disaster it did, with its then-Shadow Minister Tony Smith unable to clearly articulate the Coalition’s vision and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott not even attending the launch, it might have taken Government.

The Coalition needs to learn this lesson before the upcoming 2013 election (or whenever it may be). Labor’s NBN is a very popular project and has the support of the population.

This polling data also feeds into the fear that the Coalition will “cut” or “destroy” the NBN if it takes Government. If the Coalition does so, it will face a mass outpouring of discontent from the population, which is strongly in favour of the project. Even as many Coalition voters are in favour of the project as are against it. The Coalition should not bite the hand that feeds it during the next election and threaten again to cancel the NBN.

Table image credit: Essential Media


  1. Also getting great numbers so far…18,263 premises able to connect, and approximately 5000 actually connected, for 27.7% uptake.

    Once Telstra – (~50% of DSL market) – sign to be able to connect users, and people on existing contracts with non-NBN ISPs become “available”, that number will go higher.

    So polling says people want it, and the uptake is lifting all the time.

    The white elephant isn’t looking quite so white.

  2. Note less support with Coalition Voters, The Accolytes of the cult of Murdoch are influenced of course by the relentless anti NBN diatribe from their Gurus in the right wing media

    • I find it pretty bad that so many people base their opinions on political ideals rather than thinking for themselves.

      • “I find it pretty bad that so many people base their opinions on political ideals rather than thinking for themselves.”


        political ideas are not normally positive or negative. It depends on the situation — they need to be applied where appropriate. For example, Stalinist Russia could have done with a little more libertarian thinking. Right now, the US could do with a little more socialised medicine and welfare. Every political ideal has to be considered and used in the right context.

        • I totally agree. Having too strong a leaning either way can bad. If your only tool is a hammer you treat everything like it’s a nail. Some things are better done by encouraging private enterprise, some as government infrastructure. I personally think we have got to the stage where bits or wire or fibre to supply our communications are on par with gas pipes and electricity. A boring conduit in the ground the that different companies use to supply you with services.
          Personal leaning is toward fibre. That’s due if better future potential. Who knows, if we go halfway with FTTN will we be in a position to handle future capacity requirements? Will we be limited for another 10 years til it’s then sorted out? When we do sort it out it would seem to involve putting fibre in anyway. I am not sure what magical tech is going to provide better capacity and upgrade ability in 10 years time when FTTN has reached the point it cannot go any further.

        • True Renai
          A system where our Governments alternate between progressive/innovative and consolidating/conservative is an ideal as long as they have the National interest as their focus with some independents to keep them both on their toes. Unfortunately Poll driven with special and vested interests having undue influence do not necessarily lead to the best outcome. Our current crop on both sides for the last 15-20 years have not been ideal and the media is not doing our Nation any favours, now Fairfax is in the control of the rapacious self interest group I am concerned for our Nations future

        • Oh yes, I truly do not think I could have put it better myself, this is why I have always prided myself on being a swing voter, I will never vote solely for one party every election, if they do what I like, they win my vote!

    • It’s not really a surprise that they don’t support it. Disliking the policies of the Labor party is the main reason why you wouldn’t vote for them. If it was a poll on something like Gay Marriage you’d expect a huge amount of support from Greens voters because that’s one of the reasons why you would vote for the Greens.

      What’s really surprising here is how much support there is amongst Coalition voters. Despite both Abbott and Turnbull constantly saying it’s a waste and a white elephant 42% of Coalition voters support the NBN and it’s apparently getting even more popular. The Coalition better hope that dislike for Labor and the Carbon Tax hold because if they don’t they’ll start bleeding votes over this.

    • Abel, if half of coalition voters (42% vs 43%) are in favour of Labor’s NBN, then Turnbull’s sniping campaign has failed to convince even its own.

      Unless the coalition adopts the NBN or something very like it, it will certainly lose regional electorates. This is why it did not win the unloseable 2010 election, and it will be a likely outcome in 2013. Why on earth are they letting Labor be the only party that will deliver broadband to regional Australia? It is the cheapest way to deliver 12 Mbps or better broadband to all premises (cf May 2010 NBN Implementation Plan), and it results in all towns and cities having universal fibre – the best possible outcome.

      • Wish I could agree with you Francis but unfortunately regional voters tend to be some of the most resilient and resistant to change….even if it means shooting themselves in the foot! This is why I, originally a regional person, have no sympathy for them when they complain about telecommunications and not enough infrastructure spending on the “bush” etc. You get what you vote for you stubborn fools!!! Wake up Australia, minority government is the best thing since sliced bread….and exactly what the NBN represents….the ant’s pants! Roll on NBN…

        • “unfortunately regional voters tend to be some of the most resilient and resistant to change….even if it means shooting themselves in the foot!”

          It’s true. I live in a regional area myself, most people here don’t know what they want, they are vehemently opposed to anything that comes from a party other than the coalition completely disregarding any benefits they may get from it.

          These results don’t surprise me at all btw, I’ve said from the very start it’s just a vocal minority (and the political shills in the media) opposed to the NBN. The rest of us want to make some progress and are not easily fooled by the coalitions substandard crap.

          • *sigh* this is one of the many, many reasons why I quickly exited my home town of Broken Hill (or, as some of us refer to it, Broken Hell) as quickly as possible when I finished high school. I moved to Sydney and never looked back! :)

          • At last contemplation the nats exist to provide a recurring village idiot to appear on Q&A from time to time, and he is due again next week I believe, welcome back Barnaby…

            …oh yes, and amazingly, to actually formally encompass opposition to Conroys filter in their party policy, which should still lose them a few votes from their local ACL constituents!

  3. Surely Tony Abbott can see the importance of the NBN to his Prime Ministerial asperations. He would be wise to embrace the NBN rollout (with explanation it being late to stop it) as it is now obvious that most Australians now favour it. It is a fact that an urgent rollout is vital for Labor to have any hope of holding the Government benches after the next Election.

    • Would Tony Abbot be willing to swallow his pride? I think not. It’s a pity though, as I’m one of the (normally) coalition voters who support the NBN.

      • Paul, you in fact represent half of all coalition voters in your support of Labor’s NBN.

    • I think we may see this actually occur, Every government wants to be in power and if they can stay in power for more then one term even better.

      They would be able to blame labor while delivering on the NBN and probably appease more people (stupid people who cannot see past the facade).

  4. Agree support for a national broad band network is significantly higher than the opposers. What is also notable support is fairly flat over the 3 years, but opposition to the NBN increased in the second year and is remaining at the higher level.

    • Saying “remaining at the higher level” is a bit of a stretch, given the current “oppose” figure of 25% is halfway between it’s lowest level (18%) and its highest level (31%).

      ie: half of the extra opponents between Sep 2010 and Feb 2011, no longer oppose it.

      Even the ALP has more primary vote than 25%!

  5. At the last election the Coalition had no coherent policy and only a pathetic excuse for a shadow minister. At the next election they will be going with Turnbull and probably fibre to the node rather than fibre to the home, at around half the cost. The relevant question then will be “Given the choice between the ALP’s NBN and the Coalition’s alternative, will you be more likely to vote for the ALP?”.

    I think the Coalition is just trying neutralise the NBN as an issue at the next election. Favouring the FTTP NBN is one thing. Favouring it over an FTTN alternative to the extent it will affect your vote is another.

    • Even if the coalition wants to implement a FTTN network, will they be able to secure the necessary cooperation of Telstra to achieve it? Will their plan actually reduce productivity for the nation due to higher communications costs for all due to the “Telstra tax”?

      • Very good questions and ones I hope the mainstream media pick up on before the next election. I don’t think Conroy attacking the technology will achieve as much as the mainstream media attacking the credibility of the plan.

        I think structural separation of Telstra is a must for an FTTN network. I don’t think the industry will settle for any less. Turnbull’s talked about this but I have no idea how he thinks he can achieve it.

        If he achieves structural separation then price regulation of the Network Co is much the same as price regulation of the NBNCo. That is a very big “if” though.

    • I’d be more inclined to say that the coalitions plan will cost more, perhaps much much more then the NBN.

      The NBNs users pay for pretty much everything, including the interest on the loan to build it. The coalitions plan will rely on endless subsidies for regional areas, and whatever Private Enterprise wants to charge us in metro areas. Certainly Telstra won’t be expecting a 7% return on anything they build…

  6. Betting that even though the coalition says they will scrap the NBN, once they get into gov’t they will finally be given access to the NBN Co contracts and will quickly change their tune once they know the cost of terminating those agreements.

  7. Coalition will continue to oppose it, Voters will have to vote with their vote, just like when they shop, they have to vote with their wallet.

    Coalition, just like the Gonski Report, rejects the proposal, they are Dr No, for a reason.

    It’s about time other media, other than places like delimiter, keep up the pressure, and get the message through.

  8. Not wanting to rock the boat (much) – I am in favour of the NBN.

    But the average of 56%, 48%, and 54% should not be 56%, unless it is very heavily weighted to the first figure (which it’s not, based on the other averages).

    • Ah me again.. just badly labelled headings. Total = Total for the latest survey round in 2012, not total for the table. Consider the rocker rocked.

  9. Yep confirms my thoughts, that the main reason we have a labour government is because of the NBN policy. Even the independants pretty much said that was a fundamental reason, going against their more conservative roots. I think it will be far easier for the coalition to just let this argument fade and focus on other things, then be supportive of it if they win the next election.

    Far better off opposing policies like carbon tax and even the health care rebate where the polls suggest more chance of voters changing their votes.

    Actually I’d love to see what swinging voters think of the NBN. I suspect its quite high in favour of it.

    • Yes, Goddy, it’s a nice change to have an intelligent discussion without the background noise of the political troll droids.

      The really interesting thing about the survey figures is that virtually all the active NBN opposition is located among the rusted-on coalition supporters.

      So if Mr Rabbit and Mr Turnbull want to win government by attracting those who normally vote elsewhere, they will have to change their vociferous and uninformed opposition to building a national broadband network.

      Failure to do so in the face of constantly increasing public support for NBN will see them fail to win the next election, despite all the current troubles of the present government.

  10. Enjoying popular support? If you go by this blog article on the ABC technology website it appears others have a difference of opinion. To me, this article looks poorly researched but I’ll let everyone else be the judge.

    The great NBN fail.

    • ABC is led by the IPA, which supports the Coalition, no wonder they have a “different” view.

      Many people have directly complained to the ABC over a number of years(including myself), and have yet to change it’s view.

      HECK, the first sentence is filled with “Fail” and “Undermining”.

      When you add “he was simply doing what Shock Jocks and columnists (trollumnists?) do every day – embracing a grain of truth and turning it into the daily indignant rant.”

      WTF! Isn’t that blatantly admitting the Bullshit that so called Journalists write in the media?

      I couldn’t even bother reading the rest of the article, too much BS, and not enough FACTS.

    • That was one of the strangest articles I have read for a long while, almost every paragraph had me wondering did the author support or oppose the thing.

      • I read most of the thing, i was utterly confused as well.

        Although, it seems to me as the blogger (it’s a blog, not a news article) wanted to provide a balanced view. Theres so gems in there, but not much else.

    • I actually read the whole article, I considered he was very Pro NBN, but very disappointed in the marketing of it and as a result the public understanding and perception. I also read all 150+ comments,also a good read. I have saved as PDF as I actually think it is a good reference for those who are confused. In the comments it is brought up several times the negative impact the NBN will have on Foxtel and Satellite services such as SKY. I do wonder who owns them and how they are responding? ;)

  11. ‘In a nutshell, Labor and NBN Co’s failure to explain the NBN’s benefits is undermining the entire project. Viewing the NBN simply as a business which delivers fast web access is utterly wrong. The cost savings to health and power industries will pay for the entire build. Healthcare, education, business innovation and, in many quarters, society in general will be revolutionized for all Australians – particularly for those in rural areas plus the elderly.’

    I don’t have the time to fully read the article but the gist I got from it is it is not actually arrgueing against the NBN but rather saying Labor needs to do a better job of selling its benefits, I actually agree with this, they need to publicly state haow many billions will be saved by this in areas such as health, education, power and how many billions will be saved by Small business efficiency gains.

    This being said, working with an often hostile media leads to poor results, so its not entirely their fault.

    • Labor has always had this problem of selling the policy’s, but it’s also the fault of media of not doing their due diligence of proper reporting of policies.

      It’s these two factors, plus, the Coalition coming in from behind saying “we are going to create our own policy of X,Y, Z and we are going to destroy the NBN, just because we hate their policies”, and fades to myst, and the media goes “meh, what, what was that noise….?”.

  12. I am not so sure NBN will be the big issue at the next election. Even the little chart shows support steady, but opposition to the NBN increased and remains a significant number. Those “who dont know” will probably not even think about the NBN when standing in the booth.
    Just a bit puzzled by the polling periods, one in Sept 2010, another in Feb 2011, and third in Apr 2011. Given we are now Feb 2012, these figures maybe dated??

    • Link is in the top of the article, date of the latest poll is the 20th Feb 2012. In the last year it has gone from 48% support to 56% support overall….. hardly “staying steady” I’d argue

      • Oh ok, the chart was incorrect. Yes agreed the numbers in support is growing, we do need to recognise opposition numbers are significant and “dont knows” probably dont care. I really do not think NBN is going to be a key election issue because it is rolling out and the opposition will make some vague smoothing comments in the build up to the next poll.
        What is a concern is that the incoming conservative government will find a way to modify the roll out to a hybrid of some sort. Just an opinion, no facts.

  13. I like the NBN, but the reality is the NBN will be a very big political target come the next election.

    It is a political opportunity (for opportunist politicians?) unlike anything else we’ve seen in years.

    The line that is run will be something like: “Half way through the initial 8 year schedule, a quarter of the money spent, 1% of the premises connected. You will all be paying for this, but only a handful of you will get the service before the money runs out.”

    I’m not saying that the above statement is a balanced view of the NBN, or even the truth. Electioneering isn’t about balanced views, or even the truth.

    The NBN is a political timebomb. One that can only be defused by dramatic improvements in the rollout rate.

    • And that’s exactly the reason why politicians don’t like committing to big visionary projects – it’s all just too hard. I’m no fan of Conroy, but I have to give him credit for actually getting the thing off the ground and doing it in a useful way, rather than just using it as a political tool like most government projects. (like OPEL)

  14. Finally the australian public are starting to realise that the liberal parties village idiot (Tony Abbott) has not got a clue when it comes to talking about technology, infrastructure and long term planning. They are even starting to understand that the village idiots arguement for wireless is absolute bull. Wireless and fibre are complemetary. The liberal parties village idiot (Tony Abbott) needs to get a communications engineering lesson.

    Labor may not be doing a good job but at least they can see that australia does require this technology to future proof australias communications.

    Stephen controy may not have to many fans, but give the guy credit, under very difficult circumstances this guy has got this project moving when most others would have failed.

    • This is more a result of the original designers of the GPS system being lazy in their designs, allowing GPS signals to fall outside of the spectrum that the FCC allocated them.

      It would have been more expensive for them to specify radio chipsets that were more accurate in staying within the bounds of their allocations, than to go cheap. They figured it was okay, because at that time the spectrum adjacent to the GPS allocation – (on both sides) – was vacant, so they went for the cheaper spec.

      The FCC and the “GPS people” have now been caught, selling up the adjacent spectrum – with the “GPS people” cracking the shits that the new frequencies will interfere – when in reality, it was because they were so lazy and cheap when they first designed the system.

      As for the NBN satellites – this is not an issue. Ka-band is used the world over – (including the US) – and had that been a problem, the “lazy GPS design” would have been an issue long ago.

      • Are you sure this situtation was caused by “lazy” designers and no other factors? Given the attention to perfect design of satellite systems ( you only get one shot at it), I would not have thought the cost of a few RF components would have made much difference to the overall cost of any specifc satellite construction.

        • I think he was refering to the GPS picking up adjacent frequencies, not the satillite transmitting them.

          • Things that stand out in my mind in this department:

            DTV being mpeg2 rather than a more efficient compression. Limits channels and many have had to reduce their HD channel to SD to better utilise the available bandwidth. With mpeg4 they could probalby have had twice as many channels or kept HD more easily.

            The Apple 2 had it’s hires memory laid out in a wierd pattern as it saved on extra 40 cent IC.

            Various companies that have cut their tech andf R&D staff to be more profitable, it worked for a year or two. Probably earned the outgoing CEO lots on his share options but screwed the company long term.

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