What would Turnbull need to do in his first 100 days as Communications Minister?


blog The first 100 days of any new Minister’s tenure are always a very interesting time. The new Minister is seeking to get comfortable in the role and familiar with their substantially expanded staff roster as well as key bureaucrats in the department sitting underneath them. At the same time, they are seeking to kick off their policy agenda, which is normally substantially different from the agenda of the Minister or Government which came before them. It’s looking increasingly likely at the moment that Australia will see a change of Federal Government shortly, with the Coalition currently enjoying a clear lead in the polls. For our likely next Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, as I write on Delimiter 2.0 this morning (subscriber content), the first 100 days are looking very tough indeed. A paragraph from behind the paywall:

“The key thing to understand here is that the first three months of Turnbull’s time in office are going to be excruciating. There is just so much here that the Earl of Wentworth has signed up to get done, and so much of it is foundational work that will underpin everything else the Coalition wants to get done in the three years following. I hope Turnbull’s not exhausted from the election campaign. Because he will need every shred of energy to keep his policy agenda on track.”

Turnbull has made a very strident argument over the past several years that Labor needs to drastically rework its National Broadband Network policy. Well, it looks like the Viscount of Vaucluse is about to get his chance to make that argument reality. Will Turnbull fold or fly in his first 100 days in office, if the Coalition takes power next week? I’m not sure yet, but one thing you can rest assured of: Delimiter will be there to chronicle his failures and, we hope, for the sake of Australia’s broadband ranking, successes.

Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull


  1. Yea, he will oversea analysis of NBN internal documents so he can negotiate CAN purchase arrangements with Telstra, finalise his own FTTN plan and costings and then tell the country just how f@#&ed we are all going to be under their 40- to $50 runaway black hole of fiscal mismanagement, plus billions more per year indefinitely. Looking forward to that. Yay.

  2. If he wants to act in the country’s interest, he has to do the following (and he could easily do it within 100 days):

    1. Admit that the Coalition’s FTTN proposal is a complete cow pat (or some sort of cruel joke).
    2. Announce that he’s going to keep the FTTH NBN.
    3. Do some house cleaning within NBNCo to get the project back on track.

  3. The Viscount of Vaucluse?

    Surely the correct title for Lord Wentworth would be nothing less than the Peer of Point Piper.

  4. I just wish it was over
    So we knew for sure

    Can we please just pick one and move this country forward

    I think FTTH is the correct Choice
    but if we have to live with FTTN then so be it

    let just get on with it already

    Let historians look back and work out who made the right choice in the end

      • I refuse to accept fttn..
        I will put an axe to my copper.. I won’t concede to economic and technological vandalism by fttn .

        • Doesn’t seem like that bad an idea really, just wait until the FTTN rollout is about to start in your area, and then “accidentally” put a spade through the conduit bringing copper into your house. (Providing it isnt going to go through a power cable too :P)

        • It’s ok; just move houses.

          My current house is probably getting fibre. But if it doesn’t I’m 300m from the exchange so my VDSL2 sync speed will be fine.

          Good luck with node-lotto!

          • “It’s ok; just move houses.”

            That’s loser talk and defeats the purpose of a improved communications goal.

            It takes less effort to move photons than it does to move furniture. (Yes, nitpickers, you may refrain from mentioning the effort it takes to build the network since moving furniture requires asphalt roads to be built. Thanks.)

            Anyway by saying “I’ll move” or “just move” you are basically saying “this house/street/town I’m living in doesn’t actually need improved communications services because I can just move”. Politicians/Telcos will say “Well no need to improve it there, they moved”. You’ll remove the incentive for them to actually improve anything. If you move you are part of the problem.

  5. I made the call a while ago and am packing my house and moving to a postcode with fibre in progress.

    Malcolm does the research but overestimates his ability to deliver. Most likely he would have to continue rolling out FTTP in the not insubstantial amount of time required to turn the titanic around, plan, negotiate, and sign new contracts. He would then need to do at least one trial site to get the template right for the rest of the rollout.

    Ironically his 3 year timetable for 25Mbps probably depends on the FTTP actually scaling up in the interim or Telstra having a ready made FTTN war plan.

    • The more I think about it, the more I believe that Turnbull has simply approached Telstra regarding their previous FTTN plan, taken the “war plan” and had discussions to find out what was possible to deliver.

      If they manage to negotiate the last mile arrangements with Telstra within the 100 days or there abouts, it will all but conclude that high level talks have been taking place. The thing that annoys me the most is that FTTN will be to the benifit of Telstra and it’s shareholders, not so much to general public.

      • The $11b payment to Telstra under the current NBN Co agreement is for the benefit of Telstra and its shareholders as well, it was stated as such in the last Financial Results and contributed to the profit when the first payments have come through, so assuming Turnbull can get access to the copper within that $11b, it’s the same outcome

          • Indeed Tinman.

            But the wanting more may not necessarily be cold hard cash? Telstra might want/demand some sort of concessions, which would in essence equate to some kind of monetary saving, but not actually cost more than the $11B.

            Being so and sticking rigidly to and not looking beyond the bleedin’ obvious of meaning of “won’t cost more” and especially as we have seen in relation to some people’s nit picking of all aspects NBN… if Telstra and the Coalition were to agree on something other than $’s…our friend would inevitably, certainly claim that he was right all along… it didn’t actually cost more *sigh*

        • The $11 billion was for the benefit of NBNco so they wouldn’t have to erect new buildings to house the FANs or plough up the streets to lay conduit for fibre.

          The coalition plan requires access to a lot more buildings, thousands against the couple of hundred needed for FANS and it requires the copper itself, not just access to spare space in the conduits.

          Telstra are gonna want a shit load more than $11 billion, or they are gonna want a deal that delivers a lot more value than $11 billion by the back door.

      • Would any deal with Telstra require shareholder approval? If the deal is: “You are a good bloke Malcolm, take our copper (including HFC) with our compliments,” are the shareholders likely to be as compliant when they could be sitting on a bucket of money.

    • Rim Hells and Top Hats
      Telstra must have a warehouse or two full of top hat cabinets (FTTN) and the Alcatel unit that they use which I understand is also VDSL2 capable.
      Voila rapid rollout of FTTN to Blackspots , see better and cheaper and quicker and attending to those most in need.
      Will make for a positive diversion.
      I am sure M.T and Thodey have discussed this, very much in Telstra’s interest

    • Brett.
      My issue I was planning to move to an area that was to be available for service by May 2014, still close to work. Still in remediation since the asbestos halt. Sure to become FTTN.So may as well stay where I am on ADSL2 as crappy and flaky as it is
      However not much point moving to a FTTH area, the Network will no longer be a ubiquitous flrxible platform, just improved largely Domestic Consumer network, the business end will be more just about B2B with limited capability for future developments and innovation anyway, to cover the costs I suspect uploads will become limited on FTTH so that the crippleware doesn’t look so bad (Like Telstra and AT&T do ).
      In fact considering there won’t be true multicast media or multiple ports and services/providers, plus I expect this pay per view and free view will become very tightly regulated and high priced and Foxtel won’t have any competition , so keep up my membership at my local Video Store and stick to ADSL2, DEMAND and Insist on stability and reliability and demand the 1/2 price promised by the LNP, should be 18-20 Mb @ 400 meters and why pay for a new modem

  6. Sticking a shovel into my copper won’t be an accident..
    And i refuse to allow fttn to connect to my residence…
    Fttn is an economic and technological disaster.

  7. Thinking about 24 months from now, when they’ll be a lovely graffiti-covered node at the end of every street makes me want to puke. I’ll never forgive Turnbull for destroying the nation’s greatest ever infrastructure project and leaving us with such a crap alternative.

    The wonderful opportunity we had to bridge the digital divide between regional and metropolitan areas is soon to be gone. In fact with competing fibre networks allowed under the coalition’s plans (and the option for the wealthy to upgrade to FTTP) the broadband divide between rich/poor & cities/country will be even worse :(

    • I’m all for FTTH, but doesn’t FTTH also have passive node like boxes that are 1/2 or 1/3 the size of the FTTN cabinets? Wouldn’t there be just as many of those FTTH boxes as FTTN cabinets?

      If so, wouldn’t they be graffiti targets as well? Granted not as large, but still kind of the same issue.

      • Not sure about passive nodes tbh. I certainly haven’t seen any driving around the fibre connected areas in Tasmania, but I wasn’t exactly looking for them either. I assumed that any connection boxes would be concealed in Telstra’s pits (for the most part anyway). If they are passive and 1/3 of the size I don’t see why they wouldn’t just put most of them underground.

        In any case it sounds like they aren’t anything like the giant active power-sucking FTTN nodes that will be everywhere thanks to the coalition. Speaking of power – it would actually be interesting to know how the total carbon footprint of the coalition’s network compares with Labor’s (not well, I’m guessing).

      • Currently there are smallish Beige boxes, however NBNCo has had Corning Aust design mini units that will fit in Telstra pits without them needing to be remediated (asbestos), also save massive time and a bundle .
        Part of the savings from efficiencies MQ spoke about when the price was pushed up with that last contract

          • Simon
            Those “Fridge ” sized ones are actually temporary Fans used in Greenfields and powered etc just like FTTN as there is no facilities to house the Fan in an exchange or permanent secure premises. They were the ones that NBNCo had issues with during the flooding in Queensland
            However the key words are Greenfields and temporary. Once the serving exchange is commissioned the fan moves back into the exchange and the fridges become redundant and replaced with passive nodes

          • That makes more sense. Cheers. I was wondering why I’d found a few pictures of such large ones in Australia. I thought the larger ones must be ocassionaly used in areas where a node was connected to more customers than usual, but I’m glad to hear that such monstrosities aren’t ever a permanent fixture for FTTP. Not that any of that matters anymore, given the Coalitions’s active FTTN fridges will soon be littering our suburbs :(

          • Exactly what I was looking for :) . Most enlightening article. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I don’t care much what Turnbull will do in his first 100 days in office. If he is in office then the NBN is stuffed, game over, and our country will be consigned to suffering a third rate telecommunications schemozzle.

    What I would like to see Delimiter ask Turnbull is this …..

    As quoted in the ABC article ‘Telstra signs $11b deal with NBN’ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-06-23/telstra-signs-11b-deal-with-nbn/2768546 you claimed that ….
    “If it were decided, as it should be, to use a mix of technologies to deliver fast broadband to all Australians and to use a portion of the copper network, the Government will have to go and pay Telstra even more billions. Pay twice for the same copper network,….”.

    In addition the Minister for Finance Penny Wong ‘…. confirmed a break fee of $500 million should the NBN be cancelled’.

    What has changed in the interim period to make you believe that Telstra will now hand over it’s copper network to the Govt/NBNCo at no additional cost?

    Are you up for it Renai?

    • Turnbull always answers that the labor government has already paid 11 billion dollars [lots of emphasis on 11 billion] for the customers on the copper network.

      And then moves on with other questions.

      (Yes I am aware the above doesn’t answer the question).

        • I am a little puzzled by some of the ideas put forward in the article like Telstra making extra money on teh construction side?

          Telstra no longer do much construction work themselves. Almost all of it is contracted out to the very same contractors that have been doing the NBN roll-out.
          They simply do not have and certainly would not want to re-engage on a short term contract, the staff needed for such an undertaking.

          Faster payments are not much of an incentive either unless they have so project in mind to spend them on. The only possible project that comes to mind is an overbuild of the profitable FTTN areas with FTTP.

  9. What he will do is
    Immediately direct NBNco to stop signing new contracts.
    Direct NBNco to begin negotiations to stop construction commencing on any contracts already signed, in accordance with the terms of that contract.
    Direct NBNco to produce a business model for an FTTN network rollout.

    Since the 3rd point will take considerably longer than 100 days (I expect around 2 years), that is about it for the NBN.
    I will expect there will be a few bits of legislation of benefit to News Limited written including some around media ownership restrictions, a loosening of the accountability of the press, certainly and end to embarrassing questions about to what extent stuff that happened in the UK happens here etc.
    Probably moves to privatize the ABC, they have a huge budget black hole and will be looking for things to sell, all the usual agenda.

    • They can reject legislation passed by the lower house (the house you see Question Time), so if the changes to the NBN require legislative amendments they could stop it. Tony Abbot is itching for a double dissolution though, a rejection could trigger that and we’ll have another election, but this time the whole senate would be up for election (rather than half of it as is usual).

      • Or put FttN to the Senate have the Greens/Labor vote it down and then say, oh well we tried, but they won’t let us… sorry.

      • The danger for Abbott about a double dissolution may be risky. After the election, one of two things will become clear: There will either be a big hole in the Coalition’s funding, and massive cuts will be required, or a balanced budget will be prove to be a very long term proposition, making Abbott’s attacks on Labor’s deficits look hypocritical.

        He won’t be able to blame Labor because new legislation passed by Labor/Green requires that promises be costed 30days after the election.

  10. Having already committed to FTTP being unaffordable, should FTTN also prove unaffordable it really leaves the LNP with no option other than to, reluctantly and with great sadness of course, “demolish” the NBN.

    Perhaps if they gifted the already constructed areas of fibre to Telestra and lifted regulatory restrictions, they could be persuaded to roll out Tophat with VDSL cards to the rest of the network.

    That way the government spend is limited to the money already wasted by Labor on FTTP and the rest of the country gets FTTN faster, cheaper and better.

  11. If the Coalition is elected, you can be sure that the Coalition successes will be trumpeted by the MSM and its failures will be given minimal coverage. That’s the way, it has always been.

    It will be even more the case now with the MSM losing their dominance and profits, hoping to slow the progress of new media, available through the internet.

    • “If the Coalition is elected, you can be sure that the Coalition successes will be trumpeted by the MSM and its failures will be given minimal coverage. That’s the way, it has always been.”

      I’m going to call bullshit on this. The Howard Govt was shat on from a great height at the end of its reign by the media. I was there; I remember it. You should remember how popular Senator Helen Coonan’s broadband policy was at the time. The answer: Not at all. There is a trend with the media to try and tear down every government in power, no matter whether it’s Labor or Coalition.

      • You welcome to call it bullshit but that’s your perception and I have mine.

        Also, you are focusing on the end of its “reign”. The Howard Govt got away with a lot in the preceding 10 years.The list would be too long to elaborate.

        For example, however, it got re-elected despite 7 ministers having to resign in its first term.

        Another example, is the contrast between the coverage of the Asylum arrivals on the front page, and the small articles, from time to time, buried in the back pages, telling how many refugees had eventually been admitted to Australia.

        Anyway, the future will tell as to the MSM future behaviour.

      • i would actually agree with this; early howard wasnt quite the same vibe as later years, the same for Anna Bligh up here, and in other states where there were premiers holding on for multiple electoral cycles, look back on them and think how it was regarded when they walked in the door, and where they were at when they walked out. voter and media fatigue can hurt any govt but when its old enough and the media is getting out the knives then – well i havent seen many cycles as some but i get the distinct impression it dont end well.

        i was an early howard voter (always hedged the senate tho) but by the end i was one of those shatters, only not in the media. couldnt get high enough. Coonans policy was a comedy routine – thats all it was good for. yes that was partially media fatigue but also because she was a lousy comms minister.

        as for observer on MSM behaviour, i would suggest the pattern has already been set: big sensational distractory stories on the front page and the rest of the paper salted with other bits and pieces of data ostensibly not worth noising, but probably should be carrying the same weight.

        • Rushing off to war when there was a huge backlash against it wasn’t a good way to garner votes. Nor was being less than positive to folk from Asia when they were an above average percentage of your electorate aren’t recipes for electoral popularity.

      • I have to agree with Renai, not everyone News Corp land is “evil” (same as not everyone at Fairfax is “good”). Not everything they talk about is biased (though you really need to work out who/where that bias actually is, and it isn’t too hard to work out).

        While I’m no fan of Rupert himself (though I do respect him for what he’s managed to build), his papers are made up of people just like us, and while I’ve voted with my dollars and stopped buying them, they still have a role to play. I actually prefer The Guardian now days (though I’d like to see some more “righties” like Bolt commenting/editorialise there…not because I’m a fan, but I do like to hear the other side /shoutout to Fibroid!).

        As in most things, the 80/20 rule holds, in the case of Murdochs Media, it’s working out the 20% truth with the 80% BS, if you can do that, their OK.

        Note: MSM means Main Stream Media, it has nothing to do with Murdoch…

  12. Appoint Ziggy as head of NBNco.

    He can “justify” this due to his previous experience running MacDonalds, I meant Optus (no wait, he sent them broke), I mean Telstra (no wait he destroyed shareholder value) I mean, ah hell, I mean he can be relied on, as always, to delivery the answer the government has told him to deliver.

    No doubt Turnbull has already written the findings of his review of the company, finances and technology choices for him.

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