Abbott’s Tassie CBN fumble “embarassing”, says Labor


The Right Honourable John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand meeting with Hon Tony Abbott PM

news Labor’s communications spokespeople have labelled Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s failure to directly answer repeated questions about the rollout of the Coalition’s Broadband Network (CBN) in Tasmania an “embarassing spectacle”, as the issue continues to be a major issue for the upcoming state election in March.

Many Tasmanians believe the Coalition, specifically Communication minister Malcom Turnbull, committed the CBN in the state to a full Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) deployment during last year’s Federal Election. However, in fact, Turnbull never explicitly made such a promise; stating only that a Coalition Government would honour construction contracts signed by NBN Co. Some Tasmanians took this statement to mean that the Coalition would commit to a full FTTP rollout in the state and have been severely disappointed by the confirmed by NBN Co since that the technically inferior Fibre to the Node option would also be used.

In a joint press conference held on Saturday in Hobart, Abbott repeatedly declined to directly address questions about whether the Coalition deceived Tasmanian voters with respect to its support for an all-fibre broadband rollout in the state before the previous Federal Election, in a tense event in which journalists couldn’t stop asking about the topic.

“Why did Liberal Senators then and candidates tell us before the federal election who would get full fibre to the home rollout?” asked one journalist. “Why do we need a trial on the Aurora rollout given that it was used in stage one,” asked another. “We’ve already actually done this in some places like Midway Point. Why do you need another trial?”

A third asked: “Has Will Hodgman spoken to you about how politically damaging it might be if the [CBN] isn’t rolled out fibre to the home down here?” And a fourth later asked: “Do you accept that it’s a broken promise to no longer commit to full fibre to the premises rollout given what was said by Liberal Party candidates and members before the election?”

In general, Abbott did not directly address the issues being raised, instead focusing on criticising the previous Labor Federal Government and the current Labor State Government in Tasmania. At one point he said: “Are there any other subjects people want to ask questions about?”

The event came as Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been forced into consenting to further trials of Fibre to the Premise broadband infrastructure using Tasmanian energy utility Aurora Energy’s overhead electricity poles, following an admission by Tasmanian Liberal Leader Will Hodgman that the broadband issue could lead to the Liberal Party losing the state election.

In a media statement issued this week, Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare and his Assistant Minister, Michelle Rowland described the “farcical” press conference as “an embarrassing spectacle” which saw Abbott dodge “question after question” on the broadband issue.

“This is the best the Prime Minister could come up with: ‘I think we’ve had a good go on this issue, and we’ll go onto other issues if you don’t mind,'” said the pair. “Mr Abbott then walked out of the press conference, leaving poor Will Hodgman completely stranded, who continued to advocate for fibre-to-the premises broadband long after the Prime Minister left.”

“Tasmanians don’t want Tony Abbott’s second-rate copper network – not even Will Hodgman wants it,” Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare said. “Tasmanians want Labor’s superfast broadband network – which the Coalition promised before the election they would continue to roll out. Tony Abbott left his Liberal colleague stranded today, just like he has left Tasmanian homes and businesses stranded with second-rate broadband.”

Clare stated that before the election, the Coalition said it would honour existing contracts to roll out fibre-to-the-premises broadband right across Tasmania, quoting a statement made by Turnbull to state newspaper The Examiner on August 17.

“Today’s farce shows all too clearly that Tony Abbott doesn’t care about Tasmanians, and he doesn’t respect Mr Hodgman’s leadership,” Rowland said. “Tasmanians voted at the last Federal Election thinking either result would still give them superfast broadband to their homes and businesses. After breaking his promise, Tony Abbott is now giving Tasmanians a second-rate copper network, and there’s nothing Will Hodgman can do about it.”

Image credit: Office of Tony Abbott


  1. > “However, in fact, Turnbull never explicitly made such a promise”

    Renai, can you please, please drop this nonsense. It is getting so I can no longer read your column.

    As the article says, most think that Malcolm purposefully mislead people on this issue.

    You were right of course, we know that. Now please give it a rest!

      • No, but it does make it look like he is misleading people and using slimy tactics and sentencing to appease his master.

        • No, it makes people look like they don’t understand what was really said.

          That could be the fault of the people trying to understand, the people doing the talking, or media outlets not doing a good enough job of reporting on important issues. Or many other reasons.

          This reinforces the point that Renai made, that just because “most people” believe something, doesn’t make it so.

          “Most people” believe man landed on the moon in July 1969, but it can’t be categorically proven either.

          (For the record, I do believe man landed on the moon in July 1969).

          • You cant claim people are misunderstanding when Turnbull actually said the contract he committed to was for fibre.

            “Prior to the election I said that the Coalition would ensure the NBN Co honoured all of its existing contractual obligations including those with respect to the Tasmanian rollout.

            I also said that we did not have access to the terms of those contracts.

            The NBN Co has advised me that it has a contract with Visionstream to run fibre past about 190,000 premises in Tasmania, of which around 18,000 have been already passed by Visionstream making a total of 32,000 passed in Tasmania.”

            How are people “misunderstanding” that? Its pretty clear.

        • As Micheal said… this is basically just a good dose of “buyers beware” if your expecting actions from “policies” given by politicians pre-election.

          I’m going to admit I was very very very annoyed when my area was dropped from the map (especially w/ a RFI date of Feb/March this year). But I’m not gonna deny the fact that Turnbull et. al. were also technically following what they said. (Even if goal posts were moved..)

          The lesson here is… look at what the party is doing and base you decision on that. Turnbull can say all they want about “supporting better broadband” but their actions have been severely lacking.

      • What Turnbull said is there in black and white. He said the same thing about Tasmania as he said about the mainland. It was interpreted wrongly by many people, including the media. Sure, he intended it to be interpreted wrongly. He was intentionally misleading people. But those people didn’t have to be misled if they looked a little more carefully at what he actually said. Turnbull, as politicians often do, merely took advantage of the shallow and unintelligent nature of the media.

        • Renai,

          With respect, last December you made an earnest apology to your readers where you observed that “there is a fundamental gulf between what the Coalition says it is doing and what it is actually doing.”

          It seems to me your recent articles have been unreasonably contemptuous towards those Tasmanians who were (indeed) deliberately mislead by Mr Turnbull. (I don’t count myself among them, but that is only due to my having followed this project closely over the years and I am familiar with Turnbull’s mastery for deceit.)

          I ask only that you continue to fulfill your own promise: “the Coalition is not sincere about delivering super-fast broadband to all Australians … I will hold the Government and Turnbull personally to account on this basis from now on.”

          • Turnbull never said Tasmanians would get FTTP … so I can’t write that he did. I don’t know why that is so hard to understand. A lot of people in Tasmania got it wrong.

            Did he mislead people? Yes. He answered questions about FTTP by talking about honouring contracts. But I, and many others, pointed out at the time that this did NOT MEAN Tasmania would get blanket FTTP. I have done all I can to point this out. The fact that people did not understand what the media reported and the fact that the media did not analyse what Turnbull said is not my fault. I did my best. So hang me for it, if you want.

            As for what I think about Tasmania, it’s here in black and white:


            “Malcolm Turnbull never specifically promised Tasmanians that the all-fibre NBN rollout in the state would be completed as originally planned. But if there is any one state in Australia that deserves to have a universal Fibre to the Premises National Broadband Network, it’s the Apple Isle, which has been a perpetual broadband backwater for the past decade and more.”

          • You’d think promising to honour a contract that suggests fttp and then saying the contract will be change – in my opinion – is not honouring the same contract promised to the people.

          • Unfortunately that is your opinion. Mr Turnbull has proven himself a snakesalesman (and lost all my respect) in his dealings with this process.

            People were not asking or those that were asking were being ignored. Why was the Premier of Tasmania not asking for clarification at the time?

          • I think the test on whether he was misleading people or not should come from what the local Liberal candidates were saying in the lead up to the election. They were going around telling people that Tasmania was getting the full FTTP rollout.

            Ok, you can take the argument that they didn’t really know what they were talking about but they were the authorised representatives of the Liberal party – surely that implies some responsibility from the higher ups.

          • He did say it though. I have provided the quote several times now, as well as similar quotes from NBN Co. It’s there in black and white. He said he would fulfill the contracts, and he said the contracts were for fibre. These statements were made in November 2013, well after the election. They still exist on his blog.

            I dont know why people are still denying it. Why isnt he being called out for lying when thats clearly what has happened? Tasmanians have every right stick to their guns on this. Turnbull specifically promised something and is now reneging and politicking. Its a disgrace, and he is being excused for it.

          • Renai,

            Now your rewinding back to your pro-Coalition stance.


            “The Liberals know this is a potentially potent line of attack. This is why Hodgman flew to Sydney yesterday to urge Malcolm Turnbull to back Giddings’s demands the NBN rollout in Tasmania be completed as a fibre-to-the-premises project, as promised during the federal election campaign.”

            Now, “AS promised DURING the FEDERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN”.

          • Here is a later one – again, in September 2013:

            “A spokesman for the likely Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said: “As we have stated in our policy we intend to honour existing contracts – the alternative would be to breach them and that is a course we would not countenance.””

            “In its Economic Growth Plan for Tasmania, the Liberal Party said: “The Coalition will honour all existing construction contracts that are underway.””

        • “Sure, he intended it to be interpreted wrongly. He was intentionally misleading people.”

          So you would say it’s safe to say that he strongly implied it, without actually saying the words.
          In a court of law, I agree with you…but in a campaign, a strong implication is a promise as far as I am concerned. He “communicated” it to his potential voters, even if he didn’t say the words. And forsaking that communication (even by omission) is a lie.

      • Renai, I think you were most fair and accurate in your Delimiter 2.0 Article “NBN: An electoral house divided” where you write:

        At the heart of the issue is a statement made by … Malcolm Turnbull during the 2013 Federal Election to the effect that a Coalition government would honour existing contracts signed by [NBN Co] … Turnbull’s statement was interpreted by many Tasmanians to mean that the state would receive a full FTTP rollout, as all of the necessary construction contracts for such a rollout had been signed.

      • Turnbull actually saying it makes it a fact though.

        “Prior to the election I said that the Coalition would ensure the NBN Co honoured all of its existing contractual obligations including those with respect to the Tasmanian rollout.

        I also said that we did not have access to the terms of those contracts.

        The NBN Co has advised me that it has a contract with Visionstream to run fibre past about 190,000 premises in Tasmania, of which around 18,000 have been already passed by Visionstream making a total of 32,000 passed in Tasmania.”

        Its very clear he said the contract – which he committed to complete – was for fibre.

  2. This quote is direct from NBN Co
    NBN Co has locked in the construction contract that will see Tasmania become the first state in Australia where the National Broadband Network will be rolled out in its entirety.” 26th March 2012

    and this from Turnbull in November 2013
    “Prior to the election I said that the Coalition would ensure the NBN Co honoured all of its existing contractual obligations including those with respect to the Tasmanian rollout.

    I also said that we did not have access to the terms of those contracts.

    The NBN Co has advised me that it has a contract with Visionstream to run fibre past about 190,000 premises in Tasmania, of which around 18,000 have been already passed by Visionstream making a total of 32,000 passed in Tasmania.”

    It pretty clear from those comments that the contracts were for full fibre in Tasmania.

    This taken from a whirlpool thread just recently.

    • You left this bit out:

      The four-year detailed design, construction and maintenance contract is valued at approximately $300 million, with an option for renewal over each of the following two years.

      Considering the deal was done prior to 26 March 2012, there was only two years left to run on it anyway, which wouldn’t finish off a full rollout in Tassy anyhow.

      On Page 2, ‘The state of the rollout’ even mentions that the plan only covers ‘91,300 Tasmanian homes and businesses’ (of the 200,000 odd total), with future plans ‘expected to be announced shortly when NBN Co issues its Three-Year Rollout Plan’.

      There is plenty of ‘wiggle’ room in there for Malcolm….the trick with the LNP is you need to get them to sign something that states exactly what you think it is they mean (same as a used car or shonky land deal).

      In the case of Tasmanian FTTP it should have been something like ‘We will roll FTTP to all houses and businesses in Tasmania’. If you don’t see that written and signed, then ‘Caveat Emptor baby’.

  3. Renai,

    > Sure, he intended it to be interpreted wrongly. He was intentionally misleading people.

    > The fact that “most” people think something does not make something a fact.

    So what on earth are you saying?

    • John, I have a track record of pulling no punches when it comes to drawing Renai’s attention to (what I have perceived to be) flaws in his arguments with respect to the LNP, but you’re either being deliberately obtuse or you have a fundamental problem following logic.

      Turnbull said ‘existing contracts would be honoured’. That means signed contracts wouldn’t be cancelled or altered. As far as I’m aware no NBN contractors have complained that any written contracts have been altered or cancelled. As long as that doesn’t happen the LNP are technically being good to their word.

      There is a problem here because NBN Co hadn’t signed enough contracts, probably because it was limited from doing so. Another part of the problem was the credulous, uncritical and baselessly trusting response from both the media and the electorate – the LNP wanted the NBN to stop being an issue for them, so they eliminated it by paying it lip service. Anyone interested in scratching that surface quickly realised the LNP’s plan continued to be to kill the NBN (as economic analysis demonstrated), but many voters wantedto believe the LNP were a better alternative to Labor’s train wreck and the media were mostly unqualified to even be commenting on the subject (while also being incapable of working out which ‘experts’ were actually worth listening to).

      So Renai is right, and has every right to keep writing that Turnbull promised no such thing, because he didn’t – that is what is called a fact. All the hand wringing in the world doesn’t change that. Tasmanians have the ability to send a clear message to the LNP over this issue, so my advice is to stop whining about being misled and demonstrate that this issue is a top priority, one worth rebuking the government over.

      But seriously, stop blaming Renai (and even Turnbull) for your own gullibility and failure of logic, unless you can present evidence that actual signed contracts have been cancelled.

      • The other thing is that these type of contracts contain extensive clauses allowing them to be modified (for example to focus on FTTN and not FTTP), without formally breaking them. It’s not a black and white scenario … there are shades in between.

      • We’ve established the following:

        Turnbull purposefully set out to deceive.
        Many people believed him.
        Now they realise that they were dudded by his careful ambiguity.
        Most are angry.

        And I am “either being deliberately obtuse or have a fundamental problem following logic”.

        Seems pretty clear doesn’t it? It’s all my fault.

  4. It’s a shame Mr Abbott didn’t get the other subjects he asked for.

    What happened to the transparency in government? Freedom of Information requests have been denied continually by your government, whereas previous governments have had no issues with identical requests.

    Why was the “fully costed” CBN out by such a massive percentage?

    There’s a plethora of other subjects he would have found himself equally unwilling to face or answer.

    Final one, why do you have a media event, then avoid ALL questions directed to you?

  5. Because Tony wants to be like north Korea, everything I do is, perfect, for your own good. Oh a tough question? Sorry here’s a non answer, you’ll vote for us anyway. Where else are you going to go? Bow before me you’re leader….. Blah blah

    About and Turnbull, “caring for all Australians (with lots of money)”

  6. I have often noticed that, when people are very good at something, they make it look easy. The mistake others make is they think they can be just as good.
    Malcolm Turnbull is a man who is exceptionally clever with words. He can string them together and sell you an idea without actually promising what you actually want. What appears to be an easily understood, impromptu statement has been carefully crafted to be factually correct but also quite misleading.
    He did this before the Federal Election, when he mislead Tasmanians about his intentions, and he is doing it again.
    Tasmanians have a second chance to do something about it in a few weeks’ time.
    “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

  7. If indeed Mr Turnbull is serious, truthful, and “…. would ensure the NBN Co honoured all of its existing contractual obligations” then the next “battleground” over contracts, their wording, and what is actually going to be rolled out (FTTH vs FTTN) will be South Australia.

    “SA Power Networks has been awarded a three-year contract by NBN Co to roll out fibre optic broadband to serve an area covering about 300,000 premises in Adelaide and regional South Australia.”

    It’s in B&W, 3yr Contract to roll out FIBRE OPTIC BROADBAND, not MTM/FTTN or any other delivery mechanism.

    It’s repeated in B&W on NBNCo site too:

    “NBN Co has awarded SA Power Networks a three-year contract to roll out fibre optic broadband in an area covering approximately 300,000 premises in Adelaide and regional South Australia.”

    Only time will tell I guess….

  8. Renai,

    The truth of the matter is actually against your own conclusion – sorry.

    Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Candidates in Tasmania continually said that all contracts would be honored – and since Tasmania was already costed and contracts to roll out all of Tasmania’s FTTP were in place before the election, Tasmanian’s believed they were getting FTTP regardless of who was elected.

    Some evidence of the above for you:

    Franklin MHR Julie Collins said under either Liberal plan, homes would miss out.

    “There’s 120,000 homes and premises under construction now, under contract, under way, but 85,000 Tasmanian premises will miss out,” Ms Collins said.

    That was contradicted by TasICT chief executive Dean Winter, who said contracts were in place to roll out all of Labor’s originally proposed FttP NBN across the state.

    Tasmanian Senator David Bushby also dismissed Ms Collins by saying the Liberals had costed their policy on Labor’s full Tasmanian roll-out, confirming it would honour Mr Turnbull’s earlier pledge to fulfil all contracts.

    Examinaer, Aug. 17, 2013

    “What we will do is honour the NBNco’s contracts. We’re not about to tear contracts up or walk away from contracts. So if there are contracts in place, and I understand there are, to complete or substantially complete the rollout in Tasmania on a fibre to the premises basis then that contract will be honoured.”

    Malcolm Turnbull, ABC Radio, 8 August

    Finally, with respect to Tasmania they have said that we will not honour the contracts that have been entered into in respect to Tasmania. Let me just say again whether it is in Tasmania or anywhere else: The NBN Co is a Commonwealth Government-owned business. It will honour every contract it enters into – full stop.

    Malcolm Turnbull, DOORSTOP INTERVIEW SYDNEY, 16th August 2013

    State Liberal Michael Ferguson said the Liberals were committed to delivering the NBN in Tasmania in full.

    “Tasmanians can be assured that no matter who wins the election on Saturday, they will get access to the same super-fast internet,” he said.


    As stated to TasICT in May: “We intend to honour existing contracts – the alternative would be to breach them and that is a course we would not countenance”.

    This is not just a commitment to honour contracts where construction is under way – but all contracts which have been entered into.

    Malcolm Turnbull, Statement on Tasmanian NBN Rollout, 16th August 2013

    The LNP clearly state they will honour ” all contracts which have been entered into”, not just those contracts where construction had started – and at the time of those statements, it is mentioned that contracts were signed for the full FTTP rollout in Tasmania.

    So Tasmanian’s were not simply misunderstanding what was being said – they were continually told that the LNP would honour all contracts and that those contracts already covered the full FTTP rollout in Tasmania.


  9. Meanwhile, over in land:

    Yes, and if it would have been up to Turnbull that’d be all rural Australia would have for a long, long time.

    > […] mobile phone data reduced to speeds of less than half that of an old dial-up modem despite being promised speeds of six megabytes a second.

    OK, what does NBN’s satellite service have to do with mobile phones?

    > [Turnbull’s] office had been inundated with complaints from furious families saying their children could no longer do homework.

    Yes, and if the whole NBN satellite services had been up to him there’d be no way out for them.

    > […] with the promise of high speeds of up to 60 megabytes a second.

    So now it’s 60?

    If a twelve year old could look through an article by what’s apparently the chief political correspondent, Simon Benson, of what’s near enough the best selling newspaper in the country and find logical inconsistencies heaping onto mistakes over mistakes then maybe it’s time to rethink things.

  10. Ok here is what I don’t get, I’ve been a project manager and the main contract always specifies what is being paid for, there is no way in hell the contract just said “deliver nbn to x number of premises”. At the very least it would have said something along the lines of “deliver FTTP infrastructure to x number of premises” with an attached Statement of Works containing all of the detailed GPON specifications – this SoW is in itself a contract as both parties need to agree to it and sign off on it before anything gets done.

    So in a nutshell I call BS to Ziggy’s claim that the contracts do not specify the technology to be used!

    Let’s look at it another way, I bet the contracts for fixed wireless deployments and for the satellites specify the technologies to be used so why would the “fixed line” contracts be any different?

  11. hi everyone,

    thanks for all your comments on this issue. As I’ve mentioned several times, yes, Bushby promised FTTP, and yes, TasICT interpreted Turnbull’s comments as meaning FTTP. Also, the media in Tasmania interpreted Turnbull’s comments as meaning FTTP.

    However, if you examine Turnbull’s specific comments at the time, he explicitly stopped short of promising FTTP for Tasmania. He stated only that a Coalition Government would “honour contracts”. I cannot find a quote where he said the words “FTTP” in relation to the Tasmanian rollout.

    There were most likely two reasons for doing this. Firstly, as Turnbull did explicitly say at the time, he is a lawyer and the Federal Govt cannot simply walk away from contracts it has signed. Any incoming government takes on the contractual responsibilities of the old one.

    The second reason was most likely to deceive the Tasmanian population. They wanted FTTP; by promising to honour contracts, Turnbull could imply a full FTTP rollout while not explicitly promising it.

    I wish I could say that Turnbull had broken a promise here. But the truth is he never said Tasmania would receive a full FTTP rollout. He deliberately stopped short of that.

    There is also the fact that “honouring contracts” does not explicitly mean FTTP. As I have pointed out, these contracts have many clauses allowing them to be modified. This is most likely what is happening right now with respect to Visionstream in Tasmania; its contract with NBN Co is being re-negotiated for FTTN etc.

    I know a lot of you will not accept this, but it’s the truth. I’ve looked at all the evidence you’ve presented and it doesn’t add up to Turnbull promising FTTP.

    I am a little tired of being attacked on this issue; attacked for writing the truth. Many people here would like me to write falsehoods because that better aligns with their opinion; because it better aligns with what they believe Turnbull said. Because of this, I’m shutting down comments on this article now. I’m not your punching bag, and I’m not a Coalition stooge. But I am a journalist who prizes evidence and fact above everything else. I hope you can understand that.

    if you can’t, then Delimiter is not the site for you.



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