This is what the NBN debate has come to


blog If you had any shred of belief that Australia’s debate over the National Broadband Network had further depths to sink to, let that belief be laid aside. Today, News Ltd (who else?) published an article attacking the amount of money which NBN Co spends on … coffee. That’s right; coffee. The NBN debate has officially reached the lowest possible point that it could reach. News Ltd reports (we don’t recommend you click here for the full article, it’s a joke):

“The 31 machines are costing almost $4000 a month in beans and their maintenance has cost more than $10,000.”

Wow. What a shocker. This incredible revelation was placed in News Ltd’s article above the far more interesting news of the delays NBN Co is suffering through its contractor Syntheo in some states. Which editor made that choice to elevate the coffee issue over the status of the rollout of a $37 billion infrastructure project? The mind boggles.

What’s even worse … Communications Minister Stephen Conroy was forced to take questions on the fraught coffee situation during a doorstop interview in Sydney this morning (he was suitable scathing), and this afternoon we received a media release from NBN Co (PDF) on the issue, to clarify the situation. The company said:

“NBN Co has dismissed claims about the high cost of coffee on the company’s premises. A single cup of coffee at NBN Co works out at around eight and a half cents per cup per working day per person. When the cost of the coffee machines and their annual maintenance is added to the equation, the price comes to about 16 cents a cup. The company was responding to media reports arising from an answer to a Question on Notice from the Senate Estimates Committee.

A detailed, multi-part question sought from NBN Co the cost of coffee, coffee pods, coffee machines and their maintenance, specifics about the type of coffee machines purchased as well as the reason for their purchase. Coffee and coffee machines have been purchased by NBN Co as an amenity for employees, contractors and visitors in order to aid productivity by reducing the time spent by staff purchasing coffee outside their offices.”

Let me be the first to damn the Coalition for pursuing this ridiculous line of reasoning, and the journalists who reported it for abdicating their duty to inform the Australian public of current events. Collectively, anyone who touched this line of inquiry with a bargepole is a flat out joke and should be ashamed to call themselves “professional”. It sickens me to see our democratic systems and NBN Co’s staff forced to waste time on this nonsense. Can’t we all just grow the hell up? Well, perhaps it’s the right day for a good farce.


  1. Yup pretty much.

    The problem is media will never grow up until something is done, like the NBN, a major shift in the force.

    Even if we get say Media laws like Canada does, it will probably won’t stop them.

  2. /headdesk









    (repeat until unconscious or at the very least unable to read text either on a screen or on paper)

  3. “A single cup of coffee at NBN Co works out at around eight and a half cents per cup per working day per person. ”

    For an engineering company… that’s an unusual metric.

  4. “Communications Minister Stephen Conroy described queries about the coffee machines from Liberal Senator David Bushby as “idiot questions” at the Senate hearing.”

    That’s all there is to say really.

  5. But but but a coffee-to-the-corner solution is cheaper than a coffee-to-the-premises solution and can be rolled out faster /s

    • I just don’t understand why they are artificially limiting the coffee. The machines cost the same whether they produce 1 coffee or 1000. They should be producing unlimited coffee for all Australians.

  6. I had to laugh out loud at this. They’re really scraping the bottom of the cup (as I don’t think the coffee machines at News Ltd supports barrels either) if they’re complaining they’re spending too much on coffee. It’s the funniest saddest joke I’ve read all day…

  7. Whilst coffee is a very important topic, in context? Jumping the shark, comes to mind.

    And for once, that is actually the right call. MSM isn’t journalism, and hasn’t been for a very very long time.

  8. I heard they’re using two ply in their toilets too!


    Back in my day, we had to walk 5 miles uphill both ways to a hole in the ground, gather some leaves, scare off the polar bears and wipe with our left hands so that we could still shake hands with our right!

  9. How much did answering the question on notice cost?
    Can the cost be borne by the media outlet that requested the answer?

    • “When it comes to power, the Coalition will end this silly notion that 93% of Australia’s population needs to have coffee delivered directly to their premises, replacing it with a solution that delivers coffee to a small canteen with a monkey and an organ grinder – (which will double as the apparatus to grind the beans) – which will be conveniently located within 200 metres of all premises.”

      “The next 4% of the population will see their coffee projected towards them from an effigy of Malcolm Turnbull with a white elephant gun atop 40 metre high towers placed in unsightly locations around their towns, directly into a funnel mounted onto their roofs. This will channel the coffee into pots mounted on their kitchen benches. NIMBYs will complain that whenever the coffee misses the funnel, it will land on their heads and “kill them”.”

      “The final 3% of the population will have their coffee dribbled on them from a fleet of brightly coloured zeppelins, emblazoned with 40 foot images of Tony Abbott saying “Shit Happens”.”

      “The Coalition won’t be able to confirm the coffee download speed, but expects most people “should” get around 80 Megabeans per second.”

      “The ALP will call for a CBA (Coffee Bean Analysis), just for shits and giggles…”

  10. NBN should have seen this coming. I could have sworn another Government department or company went through the exact same bullshit last year in regard to coffee machines. Maybe it was the NBN itself?

  11. WTF?!

    Maybe Mr Bushby would like to know what colours the desks are and if the chairs have wheels or not too….come to think of it, maybe we should be paying him 16 cents a day to match his input into the debate.

  12. 16 cents a cup? So the cost of supplying coffee to NBNCo could be covered by deploying empty ice cream tubs labeled “Coffee – 20c per cup”.

    • Or better still, rather than having the coffee brought to the work place, have it brought to a shop within 1km of the workplace and let private enterprise come up with solutions for the last mile.

  13. NBNCo should keep re-using the existing coffee grounds. That would get the cost down to $0.08c or less per cup. There’s nothing wrong with the grounds and some drinkers will be able to get a really good cup of coffee out of them, even if they are past their use-by date. And because they don’t have to be re-ground and they’re already on hand, it will be cheaper!
    It’s called good economic (political) strategy.

  14. Until the NBN delivers a cost effective solution to Australia in the way that it has been promised, every little cost, decision, and move will be debated, such is the way of a new government function that hasn’t proved their worth yet. Then we can niggle about how well it was done! :)

    • NBN not costing Taxpayer a cent.. Whats wrong with that.? What about the $30b dams?

      • a little off topic, but please don’t criticise the dam/water project leaked today.

        this project (if it happens) will help australia just as much as the NBN…

        the point being: we can have both :)

        • The opposition have said it’s a discussion paper, is not policy, and won’t be happening.

          They are more worried that the leaks are happening.

          • It should have been obvious it wasn’t policy, after all it came from the LNP and I’m pretty sure that they don’t have any, unless you can turn not what Labor are doing into a policy.

  15. Should the coalition of clowns (make no mistake they are in fact clowns) win the next election and turn the proper NBN build into a FttN patchwork mess the thing I will be most eager to know is if they plan on removing these coffee machines from the NBNco offices. Should be telling if they don’t. Seriously make a note of this and follow up on it.

    Also since this is what the debate has come to I now have to assume that the proper NBN plan has to be one of the best broadband plans in existence. Everything that has been thrown at NBNco has been thoroughly debunked, we’ve now reached a point where there a few faults and the ones that pop up now are just frivolous ones like this.

    +1000 NBNco

    • Watching the replay of The Project last night (or whatever its called these days), Natasha Stot-Despoja (sp?) was on as a guest commentator.

      One of the things she commented on was that when John Howard became PM he went on a massive cost cutting program through parliment, removing all the coffee machines, toasters, etc so there was nothing left.

      Nothing. Nada, zilch nought. Staff (and I think MP’s/senators) couldnt even make some toast.

      So dont be surprised if Abbott DID remove these when/if he’s out next PM.

    • Time to put in a FoI request for the cost of coffee to tax payers in the opposition offices.

  16. The reality is those machines sit idle for most of the day and staff still buy their coffee outside. They are a waste of money (for any company in the same situation) given the few staff who actually use them and the number of cups served. Having said that there are plenty more obvious areas of waste that could be found if they bothered starting with how top heavy the org is (too many chiefs) and the salary rates paid compared to those of the vendor staff actually doing much of the work. The rollout is too slow for the money being spent in the offices rather than the pits and POIs.

    • Yer, that’s the thing to do. Try to attract the top people in the country by offering very good salaries, not that they are that exceptional for people in those positions. Remember they are managing, not pulling fibre.
      Then once you have them, really piss them off by penny pinching over a 20 or so cents a day.

      They could probably save money by sacking that slacker hanging about all the coffee machines counting how many coffees people have.

    • @James

      I’ll leave most of that because it’s better debated on a different article (as this one’s about coffee…). But I WILL say I think you’ve missed the point of this:

      Let’s say NBNCo. HAVE wasted ALL their money they’ve spent on coffee and machines. That’s $48 000 over a year + $10K for maintenance. So near enough $60K….

      Now….how much taxpayer money was wasted in the asking OF the questions in the Senate Estimates, the requirement of NBNCo. to REPLY to the questions asked of it and the press statements NBNCo. and the Coalition have made surrounding it? I’m gonna say, in total, more than $60K.

      This debate has devolved into a farce and SERIOUS questions, like ones you have asked to do with management (which I don’t happen to agree with, but your points ARE serious and stand well on their own) are completely ignored because of this farce. THAT is the point.

      And can you tell me who it is that has made it devolve this far? I’ll give you a hint- It’s not the government or NBNCo…

  17. NBNco’s response sounds like satire, and I thought it was pretty amusing. Good job to whoever wrote that.

      • Should there be a Senate Inquiry on how much the Green Tea Ceremonies are costing?
        No, but the Question is just as valid when it comes to the fact that now the Noalition is wanting to intrude on the Citizen’s of the Nation beverage habits.
        What is next, policies of a $2 per day salary maximum and a turd sandwich for sustenance, along with obligatory genuflection in the Church of Rupert and Gina?
        Nope. I don’t see it happening no matter how wonderful they think it might be.

  18. the Senate Estimates Committee Que on notice was served up by Bushby….. i had to look up who he was and who he was representing – Tasmania. isnt that state supposed to be the first completed? i could understand some ques from him (when will it be done? what population areas will miss out?) but this?

    im going to be boggling for a while over the fact that the LNP – who has the hide to complain about the state of parliament – has felt it necessary to take up carny barking and carry on with this crap.

    • Looks like someone has been enjoying a little too much of the local opium poppies.

  19. Queue coalition (… or Renai :p) spinning the swiftness at which they can provide a coffee metric versus the fact they won’t release roll out metrics on demand.

  20. Hi renai, just wondering when we can see an article on the latest with NBN in SA, WA and NT? The contractor is apparently way behind and completely to blame. Wondering of the ramifications of that nationwide (such as everything massively behind targets but it’s all the contractor’s fault, for example).

  21. Yes, but were the machines delivered as scheduled and operational or did they have to wait on connection and training?

    Did offices that had perfectly good drip filter units get ‘gold plated’ service? (I love that term being bandied around).

    Is there sufficient import capacity of beans to satisfy this voracious caffeine fiend called NBNCo!?

    • Drip filter? Don’t you mean the perfectly good $9 kettle with International Roast instant coffee? I mean, some people obviously can stand it so everyone can?

        • Well, my understanding is that International Roast is the epitomy of capitalism.

          Thanks to a good, healthy capitalist price war in the US in the 50s and 60s, the major manufacturers gradually replaced high quality arabica coffee in their roasts with cheap & nasty robusta beans. Leading to the situation where most american coffee was renowed the world over for being incredibly cheap, and incredibly bad.

          Of course, again thanks to capitalism, this provided a golden opportunity for someone to actually start selling coffee made from quality beans, and thus Starbucks was born, and became a $13 billion a year company who could almost pay for the entire NBN out of their net income…

          This is the kind of outcome we can expect from those pro-competition LNP pollies – a substandard, nobody-would-use-it-if-they-had-a-choice NBN for the equivalent of 50c a cup, with private enterprises stepping in to the gap to offer a high quality alternative for the equivalent of $5 a cup.

          Compared to the “evil, socialist” Labor NBN policy, which is to provide the entire country with top quality NBN roast at the same price as the LNP FTTN sludge…

          • Starbucks is still rubbish, just not as rubbish as the coffee the yanks are where used to, there is a reason why it has failed to gain much traction outside the US. When your competitions is cats urine your brown water is likely to sell; move into a market that is used to a better product your going to fail unless you adjust your strategy.

  22. Surprised nobody has identified the obvious business opportunity here.

    If NBN Co is making coffee at 16 cents a cup, and most of us pay $3.50 a cup outside – why would it not launch a spinoff operation as the National Bean Network?

    They would only have to sell their coffees for 17 cents on the street at lunchtime to make the NBN Co’s promised 7% return; up the price to 20 cents and NBN Co would be delivering a 25% return on every taxpayer dollar spent on coffee.

    Now THAT would help pay for the network. And it would surely satisfy complaints that it’s not a commercial enough operation.

    • By jove ol’ chappy! I do think your onto a winner!
      Quick! tell the IPA and the Coalition that Australia is no longer doomed to Socialistic mediocrity through the NBN, but has a solution to upholding Nation’s capitalistic integrity, through the taking advantage of the people with the new NBN side venture. They’ll salivate caffeinated drool from the sides of their mouths!
      Break out the Band. We’ll have a party!

  23. Wait till someone finds out about the bikkies they put out and party mix lollies! Last week we rocked up to their office and out trotted a Subway platter!

    • There was a story the other day that put the challenge to scientists to come up with a biscuit chocolate that didnt melt. I’m surprised someone hasnt accused NBN Co of sponsoring the project so they could justify buying more tim tams…

  24. I don’t mind a government owned business spending 16 cents a day to provide a mild stimulant that can improve cognition and productivity, not to mention the positive effects on morale.

  25. Coffee machines is a question that every Commonwealth agency has to expect when they front Senate Estimates. There is a lot of preparatory work behind each appearance, and because the coffee machines question has been asked in the past it’s expected in the future.

    So don’t just look at how much NBN Co. spent answering this question – look at all those agencies getting the information together just in case the question is asked…

    And no, most agencies don’t spend huge amounts of money on coffee machines or supplies.

    • If NBN Co have spent $10,000 on coffee machines, it is important to remember that that is 0.0002702702% of the $37b the NBN will cost.

      Seems a small price to pay for some productivity.

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