blog Oh dear. Sometimes you just have to laugh — because if you didn’t laugh then you would cry. Just days after the resignation of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy — the driving force behind the creation of Labor’s National Broadband Network policy, which the Coalition has largely appropriated for its own broadband policy — Tony Abbott is talking up Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull massively as the man who “virtually invented the Internet in Australia”. The Sydney Morning Herald tells us in its live blog of an Abbott speech this morning (we recommend you click here for the full article):
Mr Abbott also praised his frontbench as a “strong team” but he singled out communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull for a big tick – “the man who virtually invented the internet in Australia”. (I got a lot of comments when I posted that remark on twitter. I stress Mr Abbott was joking. I thought it was quite funny.)
Let me clarify something for you, Mr Abbott: You might have been joking, but the joke wasn’t funny. Malcolm Turnbull didn’t invent squat in terms of the Internet in Australia. Turnbull was one of the original directors (later its chairman), and a key investor, in the Internet service provider OzEmail through the 1990’s. However, the company was originally founded by Australian Personal Computer magazine editor Sean Howard in 1992, who continued to act as its key executive leader until the company was sold to WorldCom in 1999. Turnbull bought in as an investor in 1994, several years after OzEmail’s original founding, and we’re sure his credibility as the co-founder of an investment bank in the late 1980’s and 1990’s was a critical aspect of OzEmail’s 1996 listing and 1999 sale. But let’s be under no illusions here — Along with fellow businessman Trevor Kennedy, Turnbull was helping to oversee and finance, but not to directly run, OzEmail.
Does Turnbull have more credibility on technology issues than most other politicians in Australia? Most definitely. But there is a massive difference between acting as an investor in an early Australian ISP and “inventing the Internet”. Financial management is not technology management — and it’s certainly not engineering. Turnbull is quite technically astute for a politician — but we really doubt he would know his way around an ISP datacentre.