Come clean, Conroy: Turnbull slams Brissie NBN “gerrymandering”

news Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has accused the Government of targeting its own electoral seats in the National Broadband Network’s (NBN) rollout in Brisbane, where Labor suffered major losses in the recent Queensland election. NBN Co’s latest rollout plan for the next three years was announced several weeks ago.

“NBN Co roll-out maps released last week reveal an unmistakeable concordance with Federal electoral boundaries in Brisbane. But far from targeting marginal seats, the NBN rollout in Brisbane is almost entirely gerrymandered around Federal Labor’s safest Queensland seats,” said Turnbull in a statement on his site.

“In the greater Brisbane area, the Labor-held seats of Rankin, Moreton, Lilley and Griffith achieve significantly more coverage than the neighbouring LNP-held electorates of Brisbane, Ryan, Dickson and Wright. Yet many parts of the latter have inadequate broadband, such as Grange in Brisbane and Karana Downs in Ryan,” he said.

Turnbull added that the Coalition – which believed Labor’s NBN was too expensive, too detrimental to competition and would take too long to roll out – would offer a less costly alternative that would deliver better broadband sooner in areas that have poor service. “But to the extent that this network is rolled out, it should at least be targeting areas on the basis of their need for upgraded broadband, not to assist with Labor’s political survival,” he said.

Bowman MP Andrew Laming, whose electorate will not see much NBN activity prior to 2015, has also come out hard against the Government. In an article on the subject which had appeared to spur Turnbull’s rage, The Australian quoted the Liberal MP as saying: “The cold, hard reality in Brisbane is that households in Labor seats are eight times more likely to get the NBN than those in Coalition seats. Worse, the odds are around 50 per cent better if your Labor MP is a minister. This is a save-the-political-furniture strategy. They are not targeting marginal seats here. They are just trying to survive.”

“The cold statistical reality in Brisbane is that 9 out of 10 households in Labor seats represented by current or former senior Cabinet Ministers are in the rollout plan,” said Turnbull last week. “This compares to about 6 in 10 households in Labor seats held by backbenchers, and fewer than 2 in 10 households in Coalition seats.”

Communication Minister Stephen Conroy and NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley pre-empted the Opposition’s claims on the issue during the three year rollout announcement several weeks ago, stating that NBN Co’s engineers had no idea where the electoral map boundaries were.

The locations were chosen, according to NBN Co, firstly on the basis of meeting a number of policy objectives, namely that construction should take place across both rural and metropolitan areas; that construction should be across all states and territories; that the rollout in Tasmania should be finished by 2016 and that all new developments with over 100 premises should be covered.

In addition, NBN Co added a number of its own guidelines to help determine the schedule, ranging from the idea that the fixed wireless rollout should be completed in 2015 (it will target a small percentage of areas which won’t receive fibre); that satellite broadband via NBN Co’s own satellites should be available by 2015, and that areas where there were a large number of new developments should be prioritised, to avoid old technologies having to be installed — only to be replaced with the NBN later on.

Turnbull however, is not convinced. “In some places the NBN Co’s planned work boundaries literally follow the same major roads as Labor/Liberal electoral boundaries,” he said. “If this is because of clear differences in the broadband services available on either side of the road, rather than pork-barrel politics, then Labor should make public the hard evidence supporting that claim.”

I haven’t done any analysis on this issue yet with respect to the geographical boundaries, however I would find it very hard to believe that NBN Co’s engineers took the electoral map into account when they were drawing up their rollout planning. That behaviour isn’t consistent with the corporate attitude I have seen from NBN Co as a company, or the personal integrity displayed by executives such as Quigley and others.

Image credit: Daniel L, royalty free. Opinion/analysis by Renai LeMay


  1. The cold, hard reality in Brisbane is that households in Labor seats are eight times more likely to get the NBN than those in Coalition seats.

    Laming should look at an electoral map of Brisbane – which is dominated by seats currently held by Labor. Even if the rollout was “perfectly evenly distributed” around Brisbane, there would be far more ALP areas covered than LNP areas.

    That’s a function of how poorly the LNP did in Brisbane at the last election.

  2. So Malcolm wants to stop the NBN, but he also want to make sure Liberal seats get their fair share of the NBN before he cancels it?

    • If it was any way a technically efficient and feasible way of rolling out the network (which it isn’t) then the NBN SHOULD be rolled out to Labor seats first. Why should people gain the benefits of a network which they are voting to scrap?

      • This is exactly the point, during an election campaign the parties will promise hospital upgrades, new schools, etc to the electorates that have tight margins to try and get a win in that electorate…so why should the NBN be different.

        When the Coalition won that NSW election we don’t have Labor seats complaining about the Port Macquarie seat getting a bunch of money thrown its way (because it was held by an Independent and is now back with the Nats so they are throwing money at it so people keep voting Nats).

  3. Someone should ask Turnbull if the coaltion win the next election which electoral seats do they plan to target. Will they roll out the NBN to more Labor seats or more coalition seats…

    • neither he will have the NBN dismantled and destroyed forever. it will be resurrected a few years later after the mess of contracts is soughted and a new watered down NBN policy is in place.

  4. If the NBN is delivered to ALP electorates they are shoring up support for MP’s, if its delivered to COALition electorates then they are trying to buy votes.


    • Exactly! Imagine if the NBN were being rolled out by a Coalition government (I did say “imagine”), and the same non-partisan, technical rules were being followed.

      We’d hear non-stop complaints that they were trying to buy ALP votes…

    • “If the NBN is delivered to ALP electorates they are shoring up support for MP’s, if its delivered to COALition electorates then they are trying to buy votes.”

      So true. And the truth of the matter — that the NBN rollout zones were selected by engineers who had no idea where the electoral boundaries are — gets completely left out of the picture.

  5. What Turnbull knows very well but won’t say is that the boundaries that electorates follow are very often the same administrative and natural boundaries followed by other agencies and service providers – including, of course, the old telephone exchange service boundaries. Which is the true relevant factor here.

      • Yeah I rubbed it in to my Dad that he’s not in the 3yr roll out but cause I’m North of the river I get it.

        PS. I’m now a labour voter…

    • “What Turnbull knows very well but won’t say is that the boundaries that electorates follow are very often the same administrative and natural boundaries followed by other agencies and service providers – including, of course, the old telephone exchange service boundaries. Which is the true relevant factor here.”


  6. Give 100mbps to those already getting 15-18mpbs on ADSL2.
    Who cares about those that live 30 mins from Brisbane CBD and can’t get stable ADSL1, who need rely on edge services for pathetic dialup speeds from an over congested mobile network.

    yep, priorities arse about face as usual.

    kinda reminds me of the ol saying rish get richer and poor get poorer, only this time in broadband stakes, fast get faster, and slow, get, well, sweet F all

    gopod one quigley and telstra, err I mean NBN *cough*

        • Ahh Michael, but at least you get bacon, I get, hrmmm, a few strands of the whiskers.

          • It’s a 10 year build Nobby6, not everyone can get done now.

            I missed out too, but I’m philosophical enough to understand the nature of this roll out and the alternatives. Those alternatives being the status quo or the oppositions, err status quo (but with FTTN).

            It’s not NBNCo’s fault you have been neglected, in fact they will fix your neglect, just not yet. Whereas others probably never will.

            So your angst is curios imo.

          • “It’s not NBNCo’s fault you have been neglected,”. It is an indirect influence though. Our office precinct is in a largely industrial area with over congested service in Brisbane. Almost to the very moment of the announcement of the NBN was announced the proposed upgrades stopped instantly. The potential competitors also just walked away. We were advised that the investment would be wasted as it would be resumed (or replaced) by the NBN rollout.

            So now we sit in limbo until the rollout. The suburb is not even on the 3 year commencement list so not likely for at least 5 years.

            I’ll get flamed by this site but this is poor implementation approach and a ultimately a poor destination with a privatised monopoly. But a lot of you gamers will be able to play and communicate at accessive speeds and that was really the political vote buying imperative anyway!

          • Flamed? Not really. You just need to adjust to the fact that the incumbents have caused your issue and that the NBN is coming to rectify this. That you have to wait a little longer … well that’s slightly unfortunate of course … but maybe your gripe should have been had long ago towards the likes of Telstra for not doing anything that did nothing for the country (and your little area) where there was no real shareholder value.

  7. What do you think it feels like for a politician to sell his soul for political points? I wonder if it’s as painful as the Dementor’s Kiss?

    But seriously, Turnbull’s recent behavior mirrors the crazy neo cons’ and Tea Partiers’ strategy over here in America.

    • Well, Turnbull being of the Conservative party that isnt too surprising. but he is by no means the closest aligned – that would be Tony Abbott. more than once he has made verbatim and very close paraphrases of what has been said over there in the not too distant past. But i credit Turnbull with having a brain and he knows he cant go down that path, tho he will play the edges using some of the phraseology. Tony is not as circumspect nor as intelligent – he would be a great fit over there. i wouldnt be surprised to see him and Santorum, say, as great buddies.

  8. 5Mbps ADSL1 here (recently upgraded from 4G WIMAX). I will be getting the NBN in 3/4 years. Would like sooner, but I understand the logistics of such an undertaking.

    I am quite happy for those who vote Labor to get NBN and we can pay for our wasteful NBN while Coalition voters who think like Turnbull play with their FTTN.

  9. NOT ONE LNP ELECTORATE should have been included in the initial 3 year rollout – they should all be the last electorates in Australia to be connected to the NBN.

    The ALP, Greens and Independent electorates should be connected to the NBN first, because it was those who voted for the ALP, Greens and Independents who wanted and supported the NBN in the first place by not voting for LNP.

    As for all the LNP electorates – explain why any LNP electorate should even be considered before all other electorates?

    No LNP electorate deserves NBN before other electorates if the voters in the LNP electorates are going to vote for a party that:
    – does not even want the NBN
    – has done everything to try and stop the NBN
    – has said it would rip the NBN up if elected
    – will immediately stop the NBN rollout if elected

    Voters who vote for a party that is more than willing to lie and deceive to try and stop the NBN deserve to stay on whatever they have now until every other electorate has NBN.

    If you really want NBN, even though you usually vote for LNP, then it is time for you to swing vote an ALP, Greens or Independent into your electorate at the next election, so the NBN can continue to be rolled out and so you do not miss this great opportunity for FTTH under the NBN.

    • And what about people voting the other way from the electorates?

      (I.e voting liberal in a labor seat or labor in a liberal seat?

  10. If you want to use some generalities…

    Rich people generally vote Liberal and live in suburbs where house prices are higher.

    When Optus and Telstra decided to roll out cable the started with suburbs where they would get the best return (rich people dammit).

    When Telstra has some money to upgrade an exchange they will do it where they will get the best return.

    Inner City Suburbs are more expensive and are less likely to have rims, and have a greater density of telephone exchanges.

    Therefore it follows, if you vote Liberal you are more likely to have a decent internet connection already, and be less of a priority for the NBN.

    “Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that.” Homer Simpson

    “I can prove anything by statistics except the truth” George Canning

    “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Benjamin Disraeli

  11. “When Optus and Telstra decided to roll out cable the started with suburbs where they would get the best return (rich people dammit).”

    Actually that’s false, for Optus anyway, the first nodes lit up on Optus HFC in 1995 were Blacktown in Sydney and East Burwood in Melbourne, neither is a high socio economic area.

    Unsure on Telstra, but Optus Vision at the time targetted these areas under the belief they had a reasonable disposable income, but didn’t go out much, therefore ripe for Pay TV.

    The other exchange in Sydney (Belrose) was lit up about a month after the launch from memory, internet was commercially available much later, post the roll out completing.

    “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Benjamin Disraeli

    This I do agree with! :)

    • @Rob G: ‘“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Benjamin Disraeli.’

      Figures can lie.

      And liars can figure.

      Since Tony Abbott made Malcolm Turnbull shadow minister for communications with a stated brief to destroy NBN, the coalition should be delighted that the hated NBN is not being rolled out on their patch.

      What’s that? – they want it faster and in their electorates?

      Who would have thought it?

  12. Let see if I can get this right.

    Turnbull is complaining because LNP voters won’t get the NBN within 3 Years but if his party gets elected next time they will get a cheaper, lesser version….. eventually.

    Also, why does he complain that the rollout is behind schedule. Surely, using his reasoning, that’s a good thing. It will save money.

    Lastly if nobody wants it, as he also suggested, what’s the problem?

    • if his party gets elected next time they will get a cheaper, lesser version….. eventually

      “Eventually” is quite a prophetic word in this instance.


      If the Coalition win the next election – (this could be as late as November 2013, 18 months away) – the NBN will carry on at least until that point. Presuming that they stop it all, and take steps to implement the FttN plan, Malcolm has to stop everything, and consider all the contractually binding compensation/contract pay out costs.

      After that, he has to go to Telstra – (who seem pretty darn happy with their $11b windfall from their NBN agreements) – and renegotiate the whole she-bang.

      The current Telstra/NBN agreements took around three years from initial discussions, to execution/completion. Does Malcolm REALLY think Telstra are going to roll over and get an agreement in place in a short period of time?

      He’s kidding if he does. Let’s give him some credit and say he gets it done in two years.

      It’s now 2016. Nothing has happened – (NBN or otherwise) – for over two years. Someone has to plan and design his FttN solution, carry out the engineering, pilot test it, first-release test it, etc, do all the procurement, and change all the necessary legislation, just to get to the starting point.

      It’s 2017 now. The locked in contracts for the two NBN satellites have been completed, and they are launched. Nothing has happened on the ground in three years.

      At which point the NBN would have been well over half completed.

      And he says now, that he’ll get “faster broadband” to people sooner, while all the time even he says that FttP will have to come eventually.


      • I think Tony Abbot plans to retire by them otherwise when he outright fails to complete the broadband policy Labor will be able to hold it over his head. I say when because I also can’t see how he can halt the NBN and restart a new project to be completed in time. Not to mention the total sunk cost may end up about the same as just finishing the NBN because you have to pay another lot of development and testing costs.

  13. No need to worry folks after the next election there will be only one Queensland Labour seat in the House. That will be Kevin Rudd, the creator and founder of the NBN.

  14. Lets see Turnbull you and your party have done everything in your power to destroy the NBN, and have clearly stated you will halt the NBN and dismantle all contracts if elected. If you care about Australia’s youth, the future for this country you would be for it but like most politicians you care about the party 1st not the Australian people. Heck Rudd is the peoples Labor party choice for leader and they blindly think they can win the next election with a leader not wanted by Labor voters, proof right there. Heck Labor should not include any Lib seats at all, your political howling sticks to high heaven when will you see what the people want over party motives ?

  15. Does anyone at Whirlpool think MT is on the level with his comments………………. Thought not.
    This is also a guy that has extensive experience in this industry??
    Heaven help the coalition if he had had none.
    All I can ask of the present government is please roll out the NBN in as many electrates as is possible by the next election just in case Australia has a rush of s**t to the brain and votes for the coalition. That way those that voted for it (NBN) might still have a chance of keeping it.

    • thats debatable. i regard him as a financier and management head at ozemail. if he did pick up any technical acumen in his tenure there, being dialup ive always questioned its utility to the telco world as it sits today. ‘extensive experience in the industry’ is a long bow to draw. Simon Hackett, Malone, Quigley, sure. MT? aaaaaahhhhhh…. i’ll think on that one.

  16. Folks, it’s not so much the NBN that the Libs oppose but the ridiculous cost of implementing it. The 43 billion dollars is way too high – compare Australia’s rollout with south Korea. Their’s is faster, was much harder to build given the shocking terrain and came in under 100 million of government money, the big dollars being spent by their national carrier.

    To put Australia’s 43 Billion in perspective, this is:

    25 cents for every star in our universe
    The same as tossing 1 dollar per second into a bucket for over 1300 years!!
    More than the cost of all of Australia’s wars put together.

    The cost of at least 15 major hospitals (having worked with the costing of building and staffing one from the ground up) and even more than the F111 program and the submarines!!

    Then, given all this, they have already declared that huge areas of the country cannot be connected anyway and will have to fall back on wireless 3G/4G.

    What an expensive, thieving, joke. The invoices being presented to NBNCO and being paid also show a complete disregard for taxpayes money – sometimes they are paying 10 times what a network product is worth.

    This is why there is opposition – the money could be so much better spent on hospitals, real education – not overpriced “Education Revolution” shams and getting Australian manufacturing back on it’s feet.

    • Your comments could not be further from the truth…

      Do you not read, watch tv or listen to the radio? Abbout and the LNP greatly oppose the NBN. They have opposed it from the moment it was introduced by the ALP and they will oppose it at the next election.

      Don’t try and downplay Abbot’s opposition to the NBN – to be very clear, Abbott and the LNP will do everything they can to scrap the NBN and will not stop opposing the NBN – even if they are elected at the next election.

      As for all your examples of comparing the “cost” of the NBN, do you realise that the NBN will end up costing $0.00 and will actually MAKE A PROFIT?

      As for the “huge areas of the country cannot be connected anyway”, it’s <7% of the total population of Australia – 93% of ALL Australian's will have access to FTTH, and it will cost them no more then the average ADSL2 plan today (sometimes much less) and it will offer them speeds that are unmatched by ADSL2 or any varient of internet access offered over copper or even 3G/4G.

    • As Renai has said before RandomBytes, this is a forum of facts not political rhetoric.

      Do you have any proof to back your claims of impropriety? Because I recall the first contracts where NBNCo knocked them all back, even though it meant embarrassing delays, because the contractors were all wanting their snouts in the trough.

      And this is the same private enterprise you will trust with our entire network?

      Also, you do understand that, as Malcolm says, the NBN is “off budget” (so to speak) and therefore is not funded from income taxation revenue, like hospitals etc are?

      Still from our income taxes you say… err, no.

      Please do some study and check, otherwise you may come across as somewhat foolish or as someone with an ulterior motive, at at a forum such as this, where those who comment are NBN knowledgable (i.e. this is not a AJ lasers forum).

      25c per star… seriously!

    • @randombytes, If you can build a better FTTH network with less money, then cough up your plan now! Otherwise shut the hell up!
      The Libs have nothing up there sleeves but misery and lies. And the sooner you see that the better off you’ll be.
      43bill is a drop in the ocean and will do more for this country than spending it on road works, schools, hospitals and will return money over time. Why can’t you see this?

    • “The 43 billion dollars is way too high”

      Based on what? How much should a FTTH network covering 93% of premises with the remaining covered with fixed wireless & satellite cost?

      “Their’s is faster”

      False. Any speeds in South Korea the NBN is capable of matching.

      “25 cents for every star in our universe”

      Considering the observable universe has more than 80 billion galaxies with each of them having 100’s of billions of stars I’d say your maths on this is WAY off…

      “The same as tossing 1 dollar per second into a bucket for over 1300 years!!”

      So in other words it’s not a lot of money at all, thanks for clarifying that. It’s tossing 1 cent per second for 130,000 years!!! Wow, big ass numbers!!! No, tell you what, let’s go the other way now: $100 per second for 13 years. $1000 per second for 1.3 years. Whoops, not so scary anymore.

      “and even more than the F111 program and the submarines!!”

      Yes. Please tell us more about those submarines. lol.

      “What an expensive, thieving, joke”

      Sounds like you are describing Turnbulls plan…

      “This is why there is opposition”

      To whine all day long, come up with half baked poorly thought out “alternatives” and not provide details on them?

    • To put into perspective: $43 billion over 10 years is about 1% of government payments. But the NBN isn’t even a payment: it’s an investment. Real infrastructure, but unlike roads, schools, hospitals, etc, will actually make money directly back.

      Oh and about $1 per TRILLION stars in the universe. Unless you meant 25c per star in the galaxy? Then you are probably the kind of person who confuses KB/s and kbps? 56kbps is fast enough for you. (Oh sorry, 28.8kbps on Telstra’s infrastructure)

      I’m looking forward to saving money when the NBN comes past my house, with faster Internet access too. I currently use ADSL2+ and NBN will cost me less and be faster than my 6mbps. But I’m not in the 3 year plan (in no-man’s land between Logan and central Gold Coast.)

  17. Suppose, for the sake of the argument, that Labor somehow has engineered NBN executives to roll out the goodies in only, or primarily, Labor held seats (in Brisbane). Sure, more political competence than usual from Labor, but – as I urge – suppose it anyway.

    The other side, represented by Turnbull, proposes to cancel the entire NBN project. No liberal seats at all will get NBN under Turnbull (nor Labor either). Reason? Well, the usual: it’s too expensive, it’s not cost-efficient (as well as the fact that it will only be used to down-load movies), and we can do pretty much the same thing a whole lot cheaper.

    So, on the one hand, the Libs are crying “foul” (sob, we don’t get the NBN goodies), and on the other hand, they’re not really goodies anyway, and no one is going to get them under our watch.

    Weird dialectics here, folks.

    • The longer the NBN unreservedly rolls out, the harder – (read: more expensive) – it is for the Coalition to stop it if they win the next election.

      I say if quite deliberately. The ALP are doing badly in the polls, but Howard won one of his elections from further back than this. Anything is possible.

  18. I live in a Labor Held seat in Northern Brisbane,
    The NBN is Rolling out in New Estates in my area, then missing the rest of us, and going into a LNP seat.
    In doing so giving internet to those who have it, and leaving those in a black hole without.
    I am the luck one in the area with ADSL2+ obtaining lightning speeds of 1.7Mbps.

    I believe it is politically aimed at winning LNP votes.

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