58% of Australians oppose privatising NBN


news A new survey taken by respected analysis house Essential has shown that a total of 58 percent of Australians oppose privatising the National Broadband Network Company, around the same level as those opposing government-owned media groups the ABC and SBS.

Currently, the National Broadband Network Company is owned entirely by the Federal Government, which has plunged billions of dollars of capital investment into the company. However, over the long term, both sides of politics have canvassed at least a partial privatisation of NBN Co, in a similar way to the sell-off of Telstra shares over the previous decade.

In November 2010, the Greens struck a deal with the then-Rudd Government to support Labor’s NBN-related legislation to restructure the telecommunications industry, on the basis that provisions be included to make it difficult to privatise NBN Co.

The move was an apparent attempt to avoid repeating what the Greens have publicly claimed for some time as one of the main problems with the telecommunications sector over the past decade — the privatisation of Telstra and the shift of the telco out of government hands and out from under the control of Federal Parliament. It is unclear, with the mixed Senate, whether the new Coalition Government could get the Greens’ legislative additions reversed.

“We feel it is our obligation to make sure that it is as difficult as possible for a future government to privatise the NBN in the future so we have inserted a public interest test and we’ve made sure that it would be submitted to a vote in Parliament,” Greens Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam told the ABC’s AM radio program at the time. “So that if a future government wants to privatise the NBN there will be some hurdles in the way and they’ll be forced to prove whether or not it is in the public interest.”

From 24 through 27 January this year, a new survey was conducted online by Essential Research and Your Source, based on just over 1,000 Australian respondents (see the full PDF here). Among the questions focused on, was several asking about the proposed privatisation of major government-owned organisations.

The results showed that in total, 58 percent of those surveyed opposed the privatisation of the National Broadband Network. Of that total, 34 percent strongly opposed it, and a further 24 percent opposed it.

In total, 28 percent of those surveyed in total supported the privatisation of the National Broadband Network, consisting of some 21 percent who supported it and just seven percent who strongly supported it. A further 14 percent said they did not know what would be the best option.

In general, Essential noted that support for privatisation was higher amongst Liberal/National voters, although these voters were still more likely to oppose than support. However, when it came to the NBN specifically, the numbers were more even, with 46 percent of Liberal/National voters supporting privatisation of the NBN and 42 percent against it.

The overall opposition was similar to the idea of privatising the ABC and SBS. In that case, 64 percent said they would oppose privatising the two broadcasters, with only 21 percent supporting privatisation. Even higher numbers were against privatising Australia Post, while similar numbers were achieved for MediBank Private, the Snowy Hydro Scheme, and the Australian Rail Track Corporation.

Essential also asked another question relevant to privatisation, asking whether Australians believed that privatisation was generally a good or bad idea. Most — 59 percent — said it was a bad idea, while 21 percent said it was a good idea and some 20 percent didn’t know.

No real surprises here. Australians have been burnt with the privatisation of Telstra and the stagnation caused by its vertically integrated hold over the national telecommunications industry. It seems clear most Australians do not want NBN Co privatised, and only a small percentage of us (seven percent) would strongly support it being privatised.

This reflects what I have written before about Australia’s political class being unrepresentative of the general population. Most Australians, even Coalition voters, want a FTTP NBN, yet the Coalition itself is against it. Most Australians, even a huge proportion of Coalition voters, don’t want the NBN privatised. And yet if the Coalition is in power long enough, it inevitably will be.

If we go back a few years, the pattern continues. Most Australians opposed Labor’s Internet filter. And yet Labor tried to push the plan through. Most Australians are against data retention and against being spied on unnecessarily by the NSA. And yet both sides of politics are supporting such initiatives. Most Australians were for a R18+ rating for video games, as most other first world countries already had. And yet it took many, many years for Australia’s politicians to agree on that.

The trend is quite clear. My only question is: Why do most Australians put up with this bullshit from our politicians continually? It seems like if most Australians would just get off their ass and express their discontent with the situation, most politicians would need to start paying attention.

Image credit: Still from Gladiator


  1. the only real way you can express your discontent with politicians is with voting every 3 years, and by then the damage is well and truly done. Democracy as it currently stands DOES NOT WORK. As Malcolm turnbull has said, we got voted in, so everything we said must be right and I’m not going to be told otherwise.

    Bring on the revolution.

    • “the only real way you can express your discontent with politicians is with voting every 3 years”

      I would say that this is precisely the lie that politicians would like you to believe. Democracy is a daily exercise, my friend, not something that occurs every three years. I assure you that if a politician incurs my displeasure, I am not going to wait three years to let them know about it.

      • and how exactly is you writing to them or about them made the slightest of difference to their opinion or action. The only real way to get a politician or company or government department to reverse stupidity is to embarrass/shame them publically and on such a scale that is generally out of reach of most people, and even if you do somehow make it onto some kind of a stage, there is still only a 50% chance the government will get off its ass and do something.

        The only real time governments do something is when there reminder next to them in a speech pokes them and says “election year” ala the simpsons, and even then it winds up being a “non core promise”, just like when turnbull said he’ll investigate all options and pick the one best suited for the nbn.

        Most commentators on your forum derided you for believing that and giving him a chance, hell you even banned some of them for a period.

        • Internet filter: Blocked
          Data retention: Watered down
          Section 313 notices: More accountability

          I’d say Delimiter has an impact. We’ve been a core media outlet to all these issues.

          We have an impact. Don’t delude yourself into thinking you have no power.

          • Indeed and from what I’ve read the various petitions via Change.org have and continue to also be reasonably successful.

            If (and it’s a big if) enough people make politicians (of any persuasion) aware of people’s refusal to swallow whatever they dish up, it at least, keeps them on their toes, IMO.

          • You are too optimistic, and I think pretty much wrong. We have virtually no power. You ask why do Australians put up with this, what other choice do we have?? What exactly are the means with which we have to power to change the decisions politicians make after they have been voted in?

        • In other democracies, they stage protests. France and their upping of retirement age and Thailand recently are the 2 that spring to mind.
          In Australia, we do nothing… or almost nothing.

      • The Australian people have been brainwashed into thinking that the only time they can protest is at the ballot box.

        If the 58% of Australians that appear to support the NBN got off there asses and took to the streets in support of it, then Abbot and Turnbull would have no choice than to implement an FTTP NBN, instead of pandering to the incumbent Telco and Media giants by rolling out their proposed CBA (Coalition’s Broadband Abomination), to the detriment of the vast majority of Australians and the economic and digital future of this country.

    • Contrary to the old sixties theory, the revolution will probably not be televised, except on Fox and Sky, as the regime’s main priority will be for young Liberal storm troopers to seize the ABC and SBS so the new chancellor Beloved Leader Rupert Murdoch can get exclusive rights to replay the revolution three months later after the DVD is available from the new News Corporation government offices…

  2. It seems like if most Australians would just get off their ass and express their discontent with the situation, most politicians would need to start paying attention.

    That’s a mighty big “if”. This is a country lazy and complacent – as long as people are contented to have big screen teevees for their MacMansions, they’re not ever going to get off their fat asses for anything. That’s why we get walked over so easily. We’ve never had a dictatorship or any kind of genuine despotism. Comfort breeds sloth and indifference to one’s own rights and obligations expected from politicians.

    This won’t change until people here know what it’s like to live under a Pinochet or a Franco.

  3. The government can afford to ignore the public as long as the issues stay out of mainstream media.

    Stuffed if I know why boats get more air time than the NBN.

  4. I though the way to express your discontent was through full page ads in the papers, spots on prime time tv and payments to talk-back radio hosts. Sure that’s what Gina would recommend

  5. I can see the Noalition Press Release now (dutifully replicated in Snooze Newspapers and MSM):

    Title: Australia buys into Noalition CBN Vision
    Subbie: “Noalition declares victory with 66% of Australians supporting the Noalition CBN strategy. Respected pollster finds most Australians are not strongly opposed to Labor’s NBN privatisation.”

  6. The real lie perpetuated by both Labour and Liberals are that they are the only ones capable of governing the country. The greens barely hold any real credibility with the majority of the electorate an any other contenders have the political knives of both the LNP and ALP to contend with. Look at the threat caused by Pauline Hanson and the response it initiated. She was a legitimate threat to the conservative vote and as such she was dealt with. Clive Palmer is another example where any new debating points or ideas are ignored and the media hone in on and exacerbate the bat $h1t crazy, I have watched them goad him into it.

    IMHO the media have a vested interest in the main parties and are unlikely to give any credence to ideas, people, movements or parties that are likely to shake things up too much. Think of the idea behind the whole occupy wall street movement and how quickly that was trivialised.

    • The media like to trip politicians, force an outburst.

      This has been the case since Menzies, really. Doesn’t matter which party. If the guy being interviewed is already a little eccentric, then a well-timed button push? Gives you the day’s headline.

      You only have to watch the press pack try and trip Uncle Tony. The entire government is silent (apart from the potentially sociopathic Morrison, and steel-eyes Bishop) for fear of anyone saying anything that could remotely be held against them.

      Privatising the NBN is the end-goal for Turnbull. Given he’s ignored public ‘feels’ on the situation as a whole, I can’t see that changing any time soon.

      You voted for a Coalition led government, folks, by single-mindedly punishing Labor and ignoring the Greens (their tally last election was very very low).

      The difference between Tony and Malcom, is that Tony will say and do anything. Malcolm, however, is remarkably recalcitrant and would march into the gates of Hell if it provided political milage.

      The current ridiculously broken internets model is a classic example of the minister’s sense of moral right that everyone else is wrong and he’ll damn well prove it.

      If NBNco survives that which is coming, it’ll be sold to prevent an incoming government from implementing change. Everyone else sees the future that is Fibre.

  7. What we need is a group of people that are leaders in their field of expertise to create a new political party. If there is a broad enough group of disciplines covered we could get some decisions that benefit our country and its people, rather than the lobby groups and their masters.

    Unfortunately we have no-one in our society that fits this requirement that is also interested in governing.

    Start by banning lobby groups. Use a country wide vote for all major policies so the majority of the people of Australia are behind any decisions that are made. An election is not valid for this since it covers many policies, not each policy on its own merits.

    My 5 cents :)

    • “Start by banning lobby groups.”

      They are 50% of the problem really, lobby and ‘special interest’ groups.

      The rest of the problem with politicians usually works out as just plain greed (looking after their mates like Obeid and McDonald) or pride (like when Tony won’t back down on a clearly flawed policy, or give a real apology to a country when our spies are caught out spying on Indonesian government families etc.

      The Greens may have some whackos, but I think they have more integrity in each single member than all the two party players combined.

  8. I’d just like to point out some irony. If the Libs go ahead with their CBN then what exactly would be up for privatising? HFC will be leased from Telstra and Optus, the existing copper either leased or purchased from Telstra, and the existing Fibre rolled out as part of the NBN.

    The copper wouldn’t be worth privatising – who would buy it other than the Government?

    The HFC is already privatised

    The Fibre is the only bit that any private company would want to purchase and that’s what they’re cutting back.

    Privatising the CBN is either a redundant statement or an exercise in futility. The Libs end-game of privatisation is part of the CBN. Why privatise down-the-track when you can privatise as-you-go, by leasing as much of the infrastructure as possible.

    All of this appears to be in line with the assignment that Tony Abbot gave to Malcolm Turnbull to destroy the NBN.

    We’re moving forwards, directly into the status quo.

  9. “The trend is quite clear. My only question is: Why do most Australians put up with this bullshit from our politicians continually?”

    Because sadly it will still be another generation or 2 until “Technology” actually becomes “important” to the people in charge. I’m not saying there’s no tech savvy people out there from the older generation but for a huge part of the one’s in charge technology is just a side story to “important” issues such as “Immigration”, “Taxation”, “Transport”, “Business”, etc.

    • Because they are more intent on protecting existing industry than ensure we are ready for new industries. This why we are in the position we are in now, all the effort spent on keeping manufacturing in Australia as it goes off shore when nothing was done to ensure we have something to replace it. A lot of effort spent ensure we can build the infrastructure for miners to dig up minerals with no thought to what we do now they are beginning to not need that construction resource. Next is all the effort to ensure the miners keep mining with no thought to what we do when they run out of things to dig up.

  10. Excuse me while I get down and dirty.

    Skimming quickly the responses here, noting refs to France and Thailand, and some superficial notes on the {non}existence of democracy, one point springs to mind:

    Apart from our indigenous citizens, no Australian has suffered from a war in this country, our home. We have never been invaded, never enjoyed a civil war. We have never had the luxury of state-sponsored oppression or persecution, never been denied our rights.

    So we have no conception of what democracy really is, and our triennial/quadrennial roll-calls don’t count, simply because one vote among… what, 10,000?… is exactly that.

    We are a US, ex-British, colony with a constitution cobbled together to avoid offending the States so they would actually come to the Federation Table and allow interstate trade without extortionate economic barriers.

    We have exactly no idea how to make pollies bend to our will, because our ancestors did not consider it worthwhile to give us what our current masters take for granted: in every classroom in every school, stand up and (at least) sing the National Anthem; in every school elect a Student Body; and in every school, learn and teach political citizenship.

    BFD above has got it right. We desperately need a Pinochet or Franco. Or perhaps a Hu Jintao.


  11. So only 58% of aus wants the country to move forward and not be owned by some other country….. the rest are liberal supporters

  12. I’m actually more surpised “privatize the ABC” gets 40% of the vote. Thats far higher than I expected. Remarkably higher in fact. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who doesnt think the ABC is worth protecting.

    Of course the NBN should be a no brainer, keep the playing field cheap and level by keeping it in the governent, but theres a lot of confusion out there.

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