People power: NBN dissent raises its head



blog For most of the past several years, the debate between Labor and the Coalition over the future of the National Broadband Network has largely been one confined to Australia’s technology sector and technology media. This has made sense: The issue of how the NBN should be built is a complex one, after all, and not easily accessible for those of a non-technical bent. However, with the election over, there is a growing body of evidence that more mainstream dissent against the Coalition’s inferior fibre to the node-based policy is growing fast. As I write on Delimiter 2.0 this morning (subscriber content), Communications Minister-elect Malcolm Turnbull would do well to take heed of lessons from previous such community campaigns against Labor’s Internet filter and data retention policies:

“Tony Abbott’s Coalition team has finally won the Federal Election it’s been itching to fight for three very long years. But Malcolm Turnbull’s arrogant response this week to a petition calling for the Coalition to support Labor’s NBN policy shows the conservative side of politics still hasn’t learnt the lesson activists rammed down Labor’s throat in the previous Internet filter and data retention debacles: People power can get unpopular policies changed.”

This one is just not going to go away, people. The mass online petition — which is up to 216,000 names this morning — represents the fact that Australians remain overwhelmingly in support of Labor’s all-fibre NBN policy, and are not going to go quietly in the night while it is ramped back in favour of a much more limited fibre to the node rollout. When Labor was in power, this was less of an issue, as the rollout was going ahead. But now that the Coalition holds Government, there’s suddenly a new public enemy #1, when it comes to broadband. And his name is Malcolm Turnbull.

Image credit: iStockphoto


    • +10 Internets for you sir!

      I can confirm we are coalescing the groups now.

      We have a number of plans and a number of them are going to be publicly unpleasant for the likely Comms minister. Not nasty, just publicly stressing…

    • Indeed.

      This is not 1950 anymore (despite Abbott wishing that it was).

      Every detail of Turnbull and the Coalition’s bullshit has been recorded and is easily accessed. As Turnbull’s promises of cheaper and sooner come undone, it’s another black mark against him, his credibility and the Coalition.

      I’m no labor fan, and Rudd is a serial non-deliverer, but the extent of Turnbull’s arrogance and bullshit around his policy and alternatives know no bounds.

      It’s his arrogance that shits me. He simply sticks his fingers in his ears and yells “lalalalalalala” until people stop talking. He doesn’t accept he has this one wrong.

  1. The Minister elect should remember he is only three years away from re-applying for his job.

    And even with a patchy internet, his performance will be monitored on a daily basis. “No excuses” remember? That is your mandate too.

    • Perhaps in this 3 year period, MT will introduce e-voting. So by the time each and everyones votes makes there way down the antiquated copper, another 3 years will have passed…



  2. Getting the final FTTH link next week. ISP has been contacted and we are going 100% FTTH.
    We are planning to run a small website that promotes what can be done with the NBN
    from our Home Office. I think the NBN will create many opportunities for small business,
    so given the Coalition’s supposed support for “small business” their policy is just ridiculous.
    We feel very privileged to get our connection. When the policy was first announced a few
    years ago, we were so excited. Now it is here, just can’t believe how lucky we are. I’ll be
    interested in ways to make it work as a small business, but I do not think the Coalition
    are progressive enough to “get it”. Their ideology just does not take on new ideas, or technology. Let a million flowers bloom!

  3. Would you like something that is generally better than petitions?

    Whether on paper or on data they do not have the effect that snail-mailed individual protest letters do.

    Here is the recipe:

    Do NOT use a form letter.

    Be original, but stay polite and use references to other material if you cannot be satisfied with your writing skills.

    Send two copies at least – One to your local MP (no matter what party) and another to a member of the opposite side. Make sure that all copies have visible CC lines showing the recipients.

    Add a copy to MT if he is not your local member. (Add him to the CC lines too.)

    Maybe Senator Conroy too.

    I have been told by a politician that the fact that people can be bothered to write a letter outweighs scribbles on paper with no proof of it being genuine.

    On-line polls are handy for testing the water regarding opinions but they have no proof of being 100% genuine.

    • “…but they have no proof of being 100% genuine” — thats very true, but to ignore them is risking the wrath of those that voted them in. This specific petition is twice the size of the next biggest one they’ve hosted for Australia, and whether its 100% genuine or not, that still says a lot.

      Even if there are 50% fake votes (which I very much doubt) thats still in the range of 120,000 votes. Something that should never be ignored. Hell, the US, with 15 times the population, only needs 50,000 votes for a petition to be heard by The Pres. 230k+ in a week is a message – listen to the people and what they want.

      • One of the comments I saw occasionally when there was a story along the lines of ’50+% of respondents to a poll were backing nbn’. The complaint being, ‘but that’s only 1000 people, that’s not really representative’. Leaving aside the fact it is possible to derive useful numbers at that level of population I have to ask how a sample size of a fifth of a million stands as a useful indicator of public sentiment? Even 100k.

        In any case I agree 50% is too high a fudge factor. But even if it were – just say – that badly rorted, it is still one of the biggest campaigns of its type at 110k+, and just ‘blanking’ the participants as Turnbull has is…. Wasn’t he the one talking about high ideals in parliament, not just between parliamentary members but to the public as well? I don’t regard that response in any way connecting with the public/his constituency, particularly if he does wind up comms minister like some suggest.

        I might be reading too much into it. Ministries haven’t been allocated, sworn in yet. Still, I don’t find it an attractive start.

  4. The thing that irks me is the impression that the petition is for “FTTH at any cost”. No. What we want is to balance the future benefits vs the current cost.

    It is clear that the next generation of internet services, and the entire future information economy, is based upon connectivity, latency and bandwidth. Surely the cost of running fibre today is an absolute steal compared to future costs of not doing so?

    If we can’t evolve as a nation past digging minerals out of the ground, then when the minerals or demand for them runs out, what next .. ?

    • What next?

      Easy. The wealthy move to whatever tax haven offers them the best balance of security and comfort, while the rest of us (and our children) sit here in a country that goes bankrupt and gets taken over by regional powers for whatever agricultural capability is left.

      Unless the scientists are right, and climate change unleashes tens of millions of refugees in SEAsia who all look at this wealthy, mostly empty country just to the south, that doesn’t shoot people trying to cross the border…

  5. Malcolm – Don’t piss nerds off. They can be rabidly obsessive and have no lives to speak of so they have plenty of time to organise. :-)

  6. This is simple proof that petrolheads are far more intelligent and better motivated political citizens than techheads. With just 11,000 first preference votes, Ricky Muir from Aust Motor Enthusiasts Party has got himself into the Senate. Just imagine what you could do with 200,000+ votes!!!!

    Pre-election, instead of behaving like mature adults and doing something positive and constructive with their time, tech geeks donning their faded keyboard warrior costumes wasted their time and energies hurling vitriolic abuse at politicians in echo chambers such as this feral blog. Plus ca change, plus ca meme!

    • That was irony, correct?

      I agree that techheads/scientists/etc. all seem to complain about technical outcomes and such, but they are among the most politically apathetic, especially in Australia. Many even have the opinion that politics is beneath them. Economists, businesspeople and lawyers don’t have such compunctions, however.

      Still, as far as technology-literate parties go, I guess there’s the Greens (most of the time – except when it comes to nuclear power), but I feel that their fundamentalism (or the public perception that they are fundamentalist) may hold them back a little.

  7. It seems to me that if folks were so keen to get the NBN as FTTP, they should have voted Labor and got on with it.

    Abbott went to the polls saying “I don’t have the capacity to take the long term view that Labor has always had”, (think Sydney Harbour Bridge for example), but we will give you something (think the Punt at Berowra Waters). This is the core difference between Labor and Liberal. Short term views, for short term success.

    I accept that ALP an Coalition are ideologically aligned (joined) at the hip, but with a crew of accountants at the helm, you will always get “cheapest” rather than “best for the buck”. Accountants do not ever take a long term view. They see the bottom line as the be all and the end all, and with Joe Hockey at the financial helm, you can kiss goodbye to anything that resembles “innovation” or even, for that matter “thinking”.

    Sorry about that. Maybe next time. You were warned.

    • It seems to me that if folks were so keen to get the NBN as FTTP, they should have voted Labor and got on with it.

      I think you’ll find people who found the NBN important voted for a party that supported the NBN.

      You’re making the same logical error Turnbull is making: assuming that the election on existed to determine the outcome of one political policy. This isn’t the case, there is a name for something like that, and it’s called a referendum.

      An election determines who’s in power, not what policies people support. You could vote for a party because you support the majority of their policies, but one of the policies you disagree with, like the NBN, you don’t feel important enough to justify voting for a different party.

      You could be in a marginal seat where your vote ending up not being enough to sway the seat.

      Or you could simply not understand elections and think that there are only 2 parties to vote for, ALP and LNP, and didn’t understand that you could try and find a minor party that better “fits”.

      • Or you could have all the educated, engaged people in the country vote one way and all those who take no interest in politics and have no appreciation of the issues vote the other way and you will end up with three or four to one against those who actually understand what they’re voting for. That’s not the fault or a failing of the more educated, merely a symptom of the system (by which in don’t mean government but society).

        • Well, Government too. You need a critical mass of educated and well-informed people, geographically-speaking, for the “smart vote” to win seats in parliament.

          • Government is necessarily representative of socially accepted norms and conventions. If you want to have smart Government with long term vision and plans, you need an electorate capable of recognising the value of that vision who is not swayed by short term political spin and the 24 hour news cycle. If you want politicians to be held accountable for deliberate falsehoods you need people in power who are valued for their honesty and vision, who are prepared to do what’s necessary to change the system knowing the electorate is behind them because the people value honesty above fabricated scandals and misdirection.

            The problems with Government come down to problems with society – people don’t value honesty and integrity, education, facts and impartial authority disinterested in any specific agenda. Politicians are rewarded for underhanded, dishonest behaviour, not crucified for it. The media is rewarded for biassed favouritism and simplified opinion laden reporting light on specifics or even facts, instead of being treated with the disdain such behaviour should attract. The educated and intellectual are treated like they have some sort of horrendous disease in this country, instead of being rejected and revered and something to aspire to.

            As long as the opinion of the stupid and the ignorant is cultivated and valued you can never escape this toxic race to the bottom. We accept that individuals require extensive knowledge, education and experience to become experts who’s opinions on a particular subject can be considered worthwhile and trustworthy, so why does the opposite apply when it comes to perceptions of society generally?

            Government is merely a symptom of society generally, and the failings of our government merely reflect flaws and problems with social norms, conventions and structures.

          • “… instead of being rejected and revered… “ should have been ‘… instead of being celebrated and revered…’

            Stupid autocorrect *sigh*

    • You can fool some of the people some of the time. And Malcolm (and Rupert) is renowned for that.

  8. This SBS documentary on Friday showed what happens when a ruler defies his subjects past a certain tipping point and said ruler then misplaces his head. The coinciding invention of printing (this time the internet) had a role. I’m obviously not suggesting the bit about the head might happen unless one talks in terms of political heads.

    Attention Tony Abbott: Ubiquitous access to educational material such as this program is, of course, another reason a truly national broadband network is necessary despite your blanket instruction to destroy it. His policy of wholesale destruction should remain front of mind till the next election just as he constantly reminded us of Julia Gillard’s no carbon tax utterance.

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