NBN Co’s constant network launches:
Breaching the Caretaker Conventions?



blog Over the past week, the National Broadband Network Company has held no less than five launch events to mark the switch-on of its fibre network infrastructure in Queensland and Western Sydney, locations which will be critical to the Australian Labor Party if it is to retain power in the upcoming Federal Election. All of the events have been dominated by the attendance of Labor politicians, and have been broadly interpreted by the media as being election campaign events. NBN Co claims the events are just business as usual, but even if that’s true, Labor is still using them to gain a massive election boost. As I write on Delimiter 2.0 this morning (paywalled):

“The National Broadband Network Company’s constant stream of launch events being held around Australia to promote the switch-on of NBN fibre infrastructure is providing the Australian Labor Party with a massively advantageous and uneven platform to promote its broadband policy and very likely breaches the Government’s Caretaker Conventions demanding equal treatment of all sides of politics during an election period.”

My full thoughts about the issue are in the article, but let me say this: I encourage you to download the Federal Government’s Caretaker Conventions (PDF) regarding the mandated behaviour of departments and government business enterprises such as NBN Co (and yes, NBN Co is explicitly covered by the Caretaker Conventions), check out the media coverage of some of the launches, and ask yourself whether NBN Co is giving Labor a free ride here. From my point of view, NBN Co’s support of the Labor campaign has been extraordinary and requires a much higher level of scrutiny than we’ve seen so far.

Image credit: NBN Co


  1. Uh, political parties always use whatever they can to promote themselves during campaigns, what are NBN Co meant to do, just stop doing their job for a month?

  2. Caretaker conventions suggest the government of the day cannot implement major policy changes and/or sign contracts with budgetary effect during the “caretaker period”.

    Remember of course, they are “conventions”. There is no legislative barrier to stop a government from doing so. It’s just the “accepted” way, and governments do follow the conventions.

    Even if the conventions were “enforceable”, these launches are the completion of existing work, not the signing of new work.

    Not much to see here.

    • agree 100%.

      the key line:

      “these launches are the completion of existing work, not the signing of new work.”

    • This. There is a story going around about 14 exchanges being lined up for FttH that arent on the rollout plan. While I havent really looked at the story in any detail (read crib notes, was something like expanding on existing builds for the most part, or possibly greenfields), if they were places lined up after the election was announced, advertising them would be something that breached the caretaker conventions, as it imposes a risk on the potentially incoming Government.

      Thats the main purpose of the caretaker conventions – dont tie the opposition into promises you know cant be delivered. For the NBN its not really an issue, as for the most part any new places making the list will be building on the existing rollout,. Wouldnt be something I’d think was worth worrying about, let alone making into a story.

      • Because they weren’t publicly announced before the Election was called, doesn’t mean the areas weren’t in NBNCo’s scheduling and planning.

        • Yeah I know. Wasnt the best example, just a fast one that came to mind. Point was more that there really arent many areas that Govt departments, and friends, can breach the caretaker conventions.

          To read more into a situation than that is chasing shadows. I’m surprised Renai didnt make the connection between these launches, and the fact they all pretty much started last July, with a 13 month rollout.

          So you’d expect them (and a bunch more over the next few weeks) to be listed as good to go. I said 6 months ago that something like this should be expected, for that reason – 13 month rollout puts the completion for a hell of a lot of builds right into August-October. Or in the middle of the election period.

    • +1

      “Barbossa: … And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner.”

  3. bemoaned for not meeting targets, bemoaned for launches. The story might be interesting if the Liberals were not invited to attend.

  4. Now I’m confused.

    Are NBNco not supposed to switch on areas that are ready? Is it the launch that is the problem or switching on the area?

    • It’s not switching on areas. And it’s not the concept of the launches per se. It’s the way the launches are being conducted — they are being taken over by Labor candidates and MPs and used as part of their campaign, something the Caretaker Conventions would appear to prohibit.

      • @Renai

        I’d agree with this if these launches hadn’t been happening like this for months. They have.

        I don’t think this is really anything other than continuing the same. Yes, it looks good for Labor….but it did before the election was called too.

      • Even as an NBN supporter I tend to agree, this looks cheap and cheesy…

        However in saying that, given the lack of actual MSM attention the NBN gets (IMO, unless negative and then largely whipped up into a frenzy, of course) they really have no other alternative.

  5. Sure the ALP have an advantage, but it’s one of their own making as being pro NBN. In a similar way that a refuge boat turning up or a house caught fire due to badly install insulation is a Liberal advantage, are we to ask customs and the fire dept not to report anything until after Sept 7?

  6. I just want to know do those big blue buttons actually do anything? Must be expensive to roll out big blue buttons everywhere. Wouldn’t a standard switch be more economical?

  7. If they were releasing new policy, or conducting pork barrelling sessions at them, then I’d a agree, but from the NBN Co pressers, they seem pretty ordinary (dare I say, boring even?).

    It’s more interesting that there seem to be so many launches popping up now. Is the famed “ramp up” finally coming on line, or have they been holding back on the official launches to coincide with the election???

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