Emperor Turnbull has no clothes


blog In a new scathing commentary published this afternoon, ZDNet columnist David Braue rips the recent performance of Malcolm Turnbull as a flailing Shadow Communications Minister to shreds and leaves the mangled corpse behind in the dust. Probably the best paragraph in this cutting analysis:

“He is so focused on discrediting Labor’s rollout — which, slow as it may be, is in fact real and proceeding — that he has utterly failed to convince anybody that his alternative plan will work at all. When presented with entirely valid points about the obstacles in front of them, he simply shrugs them off as though they were irrelevant.”

I suspect that what is happening with Turnbull at the moment is that the Member for Wentworth has very rarely faced a political situation before where there are not two sides to the story. When it comes to the NBN’s technical underpinnings, the sheer facts of the matter are that Labor’s fibre to the premise-based vision is technically sounder and will deliver better services than any alternative the Coalition has been able to come up with.

Turnbull’s approach to this issue has been to turn on the charm and apply his charisma to the situation, as well as going deeper to research examples where a FTTN network could work. I suspect these skills have served him well in the past. But I don’t think they are helping him prevail against the sheer technical reality that ubiquitous fibre is the best long-term solution for Australia’s telecommunications needs. Sometimes there is no grey — sometimes things are black and white, and this seems to apply with respect to technology more than in many other fields.

Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull


  1. The Turnbull with no clothes on is a terrible mental image to impart on your readers Renai.

  2. It is a pity a good policy can not gain bi-partisan support in our Fedral political environment.

    IMHO if i was in his shoes , I would be running with the arguement the NBN is the best technical solution , if the coalition wins the next election , we will ensure that it is delivered on time and on budget and keep a strict oversight on the proposed outcomes.

    that way he can still rubbish the Labor Governmetn if he can find efficencies , and still support a nation building upgrade to our telecommunications infrastructure.

    • It is a pity a good policy can not gain bi-partisan support in our Fedral political environment.

      it would also mean that the NBN would not become a vote winner for labour.
      the coalition could campaign on all of the other points without having the NBN juggernaut hanging over their heads.

      but no, they must oppose it because that is (supposedly) what the opposition must do…. oppose any and every policy the government puts out.

      • Love the idea @Pandyman. We can only hope.

        @looktall – please note the NDIS (good) and Ludlam’s motion regarding the TPP (bad), but in general you are right.

  3. I’ll start by saying I agree with FTTH, I cant wait for the last mile copper to be withdrawn and look forward to eventually having a decent, stable, connection.

    Whilst I think that Labor have the best solution, I also believe amongst the general public the perception is that the Libs have the better idea. I keep banging my head against the wall trying to explain to friends / family the advantages / disadvantages of each solution, but in the end the common view is ‘why do we need to spend so much money when it is fine as it is…’

    Labor needs to sell the merits of the NBN to the public, support for their policy may be strong with tech savvy people, but outside that realm it is not accepted. Either that or the minister for Wentworth try and have Australia’s best interest in mind instead of just blatantly opposing…

    • Explain this to them.
      We we have an aging coal fired power plant that we know needs replacing soon. Do we wait for it to breakdown completely when it is already causing brownouts in areas? Do you replace with a new more modern coal fired plant(the LNP approach) because it is cheaper now? Do you replace with a far more carbon efficient solution that will be a lot cheaper over the life of the plant?

      • I woudnt use so inflammatory an example, you are likely to start another argument right following the first.

        What I would probably say is that canal types probably thought their investment would last longer than it did too. for pre steam it was certainly an adequate transport network. So steam comes along and you have two main choices. Use the existing network and boost it with your new abilities – the update and upgrade system we’ve used to date, pretty much. Or build a fresh network tailored to the new tech.

        You certainly could have – and there probably were – steam canal barges. But you can only go so fast on water before stopping becomes a problem. The rail network didn’t have legacy problems from the old network, might have cost a packet to lay down in the first instance. But not having to spend money on legacy problems came back to their pockets over the lifetime of that network. Being a transit network, its all about people using it, to pay off/make money.

        As the train network served demand of people to be mobile, the nbn serves the demand of people to be connected. Given copper cutover there is little to say people will not use it, will not pay for it – it will make its money at ~50% 12 Mbit from the earlier corporate plan after all. If ~44% of people continue to take up 100Mbit services instead, I would suggest arpu is there to pay for it. There really is little sense in messing with it in-flight – it is not going to be a positive on cost – ‘we’ll do it cheaper’, remember – and it certainly won’t be faster with the litany of things needing to be done to get it off the ground.

        So as far as cost goes, as long as the current policy beats the corporate plan for return it will only be a lot if money if its allowed to fail. But cutting It short will make it more likely that it fails, that it does wind up ‘costing us a lot’. Its been suggested here before to ask them which they’d rather – a cheap Indian car you need a new one of every year, or the initially much more expensive Toyota, which will last many times the years and km.? If you fix something, do it on the cheap and nasty, it fails and you have to do it again properly – was it worth spending the money on a cheap fix in the end? Cost is a relative thing, if that’s the only thing they are seeing. They certainly aren’t seeing the whole picture if that’s all they can focus on.

  4. You’ve all been ignoring something extremely important here.

    It turns out that the only people who have said our plan will work are the people who know what they are talking about.



    How about that indisputable fact, you irrational zealots! It just so happens that everyone who agrees with my parties’ policies happens to be correct! So there! You’ve been defeated and you can go home now!

    • And quite right too!

      The only people who are worth listening to on telecommunications are the ones who are embedded in the opposition, er, agree with everything that is enunciated by The Right Honourable the Lord Turnbull of Wentworth.

      ‘It just so happens that everyone who agrees with my parties’ policies happens to be correct! So there!’

      Now kiss my fundamental superiority, varlet.

  5. The more complex a situation the more variables that must be incorporated, therefore the less clear cut the outcomes become (hence ‘grey area’). The NBN debate is about a very complex scenario with huge numbers of variables, but there are only a few major ones which are actually relevant – whether an upgrade is actually necessary in the first place (due to aging infrastructure that is incapable of delivering services to all Australians, that should clearly be yes) then what is the best technology to deploy from the perspectives of engineering, cost and time frame, what is the best way to fund it, what is the most fault tolerant and requires the lowest ongoing maintenance costs. That means the important considerations for the NBN are relatively simple, and are black and white, because there are answers that are substantially better than the alternatives and they can be justified scientifically or ecomomically. MT has waxed lyrical about ‘technology agnosticism’, but science is as agnostic as it gets – science has no political bias, it is only concerned with the evidence. The evidence suggests that optic fibre is unmatched by anything humans have so far conceived for communications, for bandwidth, cost, ongoing power consumption, maintenance, robustness, wear and corrosion. It is the best technology. That’s not zealotry, it’s fact.

    The same goes for the funding model in a race between a return generating asset vs no-return subsidies. A profit returning asset model is clearly vastly superior to the Govt throwing money at private companies who will then go ahead and charge customers for the privilege of accessing services that the subsidy recipient didn’t have to pay for in the first place. That’s not ‘opinion’, that’s fact (in terms of the best interests of tax payers). In fact, not only will the Govt have more money for roads and education in an NBN world in the short term, once the loans are fully paid the NBN will generate additional income for the government which could be offset against the tax base.

    The end result is, while the NBN is obviously complex, the key criteria for justification of the project are fairly simple to summarise and understand and they can be exhaustively judged on their scientific and economic merits with no valid subjectivity. That makes the debate essentially black and white, as Renai wrote. There’s no wiggle room Malcom and the only debate you can have here is on the facts, and it has been proven pretty comprehensively that the facts stack up for the NBN and Labor Govt policy while you are left with disingenuous lies, misinformation and obfuscation. This is black and white, and you, Sir, are wrong.

    • Nicely presented.
      Sticks to facts.
      I haven’t seen comments from you before – I look forward to more.


  6. If and when Malcolm Turnbull gets into office as Communications Minister, I’ll expect it’ll go the way the Iraq war went.

    He’ll invade NBNCo, looking for WMDs (Waste, Mismanagement, and Deceit). Finding any hint of them, will be enough provocation to shut them down, hanging the CEO and all his henchmen as criminals.

    Trust me when I say, it won’t be pretty. In war, there are no winners.

    • There are no winners, including the Australian citizens and our economy over the coming decades.

      But who cares Team Coalition and Murdoch defeated their enemy and we have the choice of Murdoch Media and Murdoch News and opinion and ???

  7. And keeps pointing out his HFC service is fantastic.

    Telstra had 10 years to roll that out nationally. But choose to place it into select areas of Capital City online

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