Liberal MP misleads Parliament with NBN motion



news Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis has moved a motion in the House of Representatives which appears to contain demonstrably false information about Labor’s National Broadband Network policy, in a controversial move which caused instant uproar on the part of Labor figures focused on the NBN policy.

Under Labor’s previous NBN policy, some 93 percent of Australian premises were to have received fibre directly to the premises, with the remainder of the population to have been served by a combination of satellite and wireless broadband. However, the Coalition’s alternative vision unveiled in April 2013 featured a significant watering down of the project and a focus on technically inferior Fibre to the Node technology. It has since been watered down further, with an extended focus on re-using the existing HFC cable networks owned by Telstra and Optus.

The Coalition’s approach to the issue has sparked extreme criticism from telecommunications industry experts as well as the general population. In January, for instance, veteran telecommunications analyst Paul Budde described the Coalition’s new “Multi-Technology Mix” approach as “a dog’s breakfast” of different technologies, which could turn out to be a “logistical nightmare” to deliver in practice. Some 272,000 Australians have signed a record-breaking petition requesting the Coalition reconsider its plans.

Yesterday Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis, whose electorate of Gilmore contains the early stage NBN rollout zone of Kiama, moved in the House of Representatives that the House take note that NBN Co’s recent Strategic Review conducted under the new Coalition Government revealed that the “Government’s broadband plan can be completed using a mix of technologies to save $32 billion, keep monthly bills lower and deliver the NBN to all Australians four years sooner than under Labor’s plan”.

The motion also asked the Parliament to note that the NBN was in a fundamentally worse position than Labor ever disclosed to Parliament or the Australian public; that if Labor’s policies were left in place, Australian households could pay up to 80 per cent more for broadband each month; and that the cost of completing the NBN under Labor‟s plan has blown out to $73 billion.

It also asked the House to acknowledge that the Government was “delivering on its election commitment to complete the NBN sooner, cheaper to consumers and more affordably for the Australian taxpayer”.

The motion contains very similar language to a number of comments recently made by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the topic. However, unfortunately, it also contains several demonstrably inaccurate statements.

NBN Co’s Strategic Review document, published in December last year and available online in PDF format, provides a range of possible network deployment models, ranging from the previous Labor Government’s FTTP plan, to the so-called “Optimised Multi-Technology Mix” which the Coalition has chosen for its own rollout.

The report makes it clear that under almost every scenario, the NBN project as a whole will make a modern return on the Government’s investment in the project, ranging from 2.5 percent to 5.3 percent. This means that the Coalition’s MTM policy would make slightly more money than Labor’s FTTP option — but neither will, in the long-run, actually cost the Government anything. The money will be recouped through monthly broadband subscriber fees paid by ordinary Australian residents and businesses.

Furthermore, the Strategic Review also indicates that if NBN Co radically redesigned Labor’s FTTP model (for example, making greater use of overhead cabling) and an all-equity model was used to support the rollout, which the Federal Government can afford due to its extremely favourable financial situation when compared with other countries globally, the total capital investment requirement for Labor’s model would be $54 billion, just $15 billion more than the Coalition’s model. It would only take three years more.

The claim that consumer costs under Labor’s FTTP NBN policy would be 80 percent higher is also inaccurate. Current NBN costs are comparable to ADSL or HFC broadband costs, and NBN Co has committed to keeping its wholesale costs limited to the level of inflation.

Turnbull has read NBN Co’s Strategic Review, is familiar with its contents, and is aware that some of the statements which he has made with respect to Labor’s NBN policy, which were echoed by Sudmalis yesterday, are widely considered to be inaccurate. It is not clear whether Sudmalis is aware of this fact.

There is significant Parliamentary precedent for heavy sanctions to be imposed on Members of Parliament who deliberately mislead the Parliament. Such an act may lead to a Member being found in contempt of Parliament; in the past, this has led some politicians to resign from their post.

The motion was immediately heavily criticised by several members of the Opposition. Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare said the Government’s Budget papers released earlier this month strongly demonstrated that the $73 billion cost figure in particular was inaccurate. You can watch Clare’s full speech online here.

“Last year’s budget—our last budget—showed that we would allocate $30.4 billion in government equity to build the NBN,” he said. “In this budget the Liberal Party shows that it will allocate $29.5 billion. It is not a $50 billion difference; it is a $1 billion difference.”

“The real difference is what the people of Australia will get. Under Labor they would have got the real NBN, fibre to the premises, a game-changing project that would change the way we live and change the way we work. Under this government, only 25 per cent of Australia will get fibre to the premises. The rest of Australia will miss out. They will get a second-rate NBN from a third-rate government.”

Clare said he believed the Coalition was pursuing its alternative NBN policy because he believed the Liberal Party did not understand how important the NBN is.

“The Prime Minister says he is the infrastructure Prime Minister of Australia but he describes the NBN as, effectively, a video entertainment system,” the Labor MP said. “He wants to tear down this project but, at the same time, to build a paid parental leave scheme, to give $50,000 to rich mums who do not need it.”

“I make this point for this reason: the cost of the paid parental leave scheme over the next decade will be more than the cost of building the NBN over the next decade. Which one do you think will have a bigger impact on the Australian economy. I can tell you it is the NBN. The member for Gilmore should know better because in her electorate is the town of Kiama, one of the first places to get the NBN. The people in Kiama who are using it love it.”

I want to say a few things about this little sequence of events yesterday.

Firstly, it’s extremely obvious — as various Labor MPs pointed out following Sudmalis’ moving of the motion — that it was Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, not first-time MP Ann Sudmalis (who only took her seat in September) — who wrote this motion. Turnbull has a habit of cultivating junior MPs by getting to raise issues in his portfolio, and it seems clear that he is working with Sudmalis on this issue. Interestingly, Sudmalis is not a complete n00b when it comes to parliamentary procedure, having long worked as an advisor to her predecessor in her seat of Gilmore, Joanna Gash.

Secondly, however, it’s a little unclear why Turnbull would want this kind of motion raised in the Parliament. Not only is it clearly designed to cause a ruckus — but it gives Labor MPs such as Jason Clare, Michelle Rowland and Ed Husic a rather large platform to object to it. Of course the motion would eventually be passed due to the Coalition’s dominance of the House of Representatives, but one wonders why Turnbull wants the Parliament discussing the NBN in the first place. One rather suspects the Communications Minister would want the issue kept quiet, given how controversial the Coalition’s overhaul of it is.

Lastly, of course we’re seeing the same inaccurate statements here regarding NBN Co’s Strategic Review that we’ve been seeing from Turnbull for some time. One wonders whether Sudmalis really understands what she is speaking about here — is she aware that she has mischaracterised the findings of the NBN Co Strategic Review to the House of Representatives? Has the new MP, who has shown little interest in the NBN previously, even fully read the document?

Image credit: Office of Ann Sudmalis


  1. The number of pure errors contained in this motion suggests this MP would be out of her depth in a car park puddle.

    Why is Turnbull hiding and throwing colleagues under the bus when it is his job to defend the MTM (Malcolm Turnbull Mess) ???

    • I would *love* to see a live debate on this issue between Sudmalis and Michelle Rowland. Rowland would wipe the floor with Sudmalis with one hand tied behind her back and then walk off laughing.

    • Much like when people discuss court rulings, it seems the technology community and the public have fallen into the media trap. “The media said it so it must be truth”.
      The problem in this instance is we’re missing the politics game, why would turnbull want a junior minister to raise an issue and why raise it at all? Yes you can easily say he would want to keep it quite BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT IS EVIL etc etc. Or if you think about the political game, its a way for turnbull to get the issue debated without copping heat from his own party – remember he is an individual and has long actually been a fan of the NBN, yet when constrained by his party, is it not a smart move to stoke the fire so you get some wiggle room?

      Theres a lot more to the dynamics than the discussions on these pages ever lets on.

    • You’re very kind characterising Sudmalis’s lies as errors, pure or not. I do not believe that she was unaware that she was lying.

      Turnbull is well aware that he has condemned Australia to an expensive, inefficient pig’s breakfast masquerading as national communications infrastructure, which is already obsolete.

      He has done so in the hope of gaining political advantage in his quest to unseat Liesalot, abandoning any principles and integrity he may have possessed.

  2. There was a nice little response from Jason Clare on this doing the rounds on Facebook yesterday, ran to about 4 minutes from memory.

    Had buffering issues (despite being told I have 18 Mbps available when I dont), so got a little frustrated near the end and didnt watch the last 20 secs or so, but Jason set the basis for some nice discussions in the future. Had a little shot at Ann Sudmalis as part of it, talked about the cost being essentially the same, etc etc.

    Was on the Australia wants a Fibre NBN facebook page but I doubt you’ll see it reported in MSM any time soon.

    • I believe Renai linked it in the article:

      The motion was immediately heavily criticised by several members of the Opposition. Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare said the Government’s Budget papers released earlier this month strongly demonstrated that the $73 billion cost figure in particular was inaccurate. You can watch Clare’s full speech online here. (

  3. My guess is that Turnbull want’s to play the ‘Democracy’ card. He can then claim the issue was debated in parliament, the democratic process took place and it was decided democratically the coalitions approach would go ahead.

    All Turnbull has to do is weather the storm Labor and the ‘online zealots’ will create. He will keep saying the same lies, repeating the same falsities. If he says them enough, the public will not know what to think as the NBN is too technical for them to be able to make an informed decision on the topic. In all the confusion Turnbull will forge ahead with the CBN while the rest of us sit there watching him destroy the NBN and the future australia could of had.

  4. Turnbull is usually fairly careful to qualify his comments that “the strategic review found …”. Not so with his underlings :-).

    @ Ms Sudmalis: They saw you comming!

  5. Sadly you’re assuming the current speaker would sanction one of her own Coalition with what she has done.

    We’ve seen to date just how little interest in the sanctity of the role of speaker as an independent arbiter of the house the Hon. Bronwyn Bishop has.

  6. Might sound crazy, but what if Malcolm Turnbull prefers the labor NBN plan?

    Raising the issue with easily defendable/defeatable margin while raising the publics conscious of it will make it easier for it to be struck down in the senate, allowing that NBN to be deferred and changed until it is closer to his liking (so the party can still look Frugal and it is the nasty senate that is making you pay more money) or until Labour wins another election and redoes the NBN as it should be.

    • “Might sound crazy, but what if Malcolm Turnbull prefers the labor NBN plan?”

      He doesn’t.

    • Why would Malcolm Turnbull prefer Labor’s plan to a plan that he himself devised?

      If there’s one thing that you can say about any politician, it is that they are egotistical. Malcolm Turnbull in particular is a powerful example of that – he is egotistical to the point of being smug. You have to be egotistical to become a politician, because you have to be egotistical to believe you can represent many people and to believe you should be elected by many people. Being egotistical is not, in itself, a bad thing – by another name, it is pride or self-confidence – but it gives you a clue as to how to answer the rhetorical question I asked.

      • I actually think Abbott devised the plan with the help of a few other neanderthals and didn’t give Malcolm a look at it until the night he told us that Mal “virtually invented the internet”.
        Then it was all too late, he had to go along with it and looked extremely uncomfortable all through the policy launch. I’ve been watching him ever since and he always looks guilty whenever he has to speak about the mess he’s allowed himself to be dropped into.
        I used to feel sorry for him, but not any more, he should have stood up for what he believed instead of letting Abbott cut his nuts of and put them in the bucket with all the others under his desk.

        • Let’s face it, Abbott isn’t smart enough. The comprehensive and systematic dismantling of the NBN was entirely Turnbull’s baby. Let’s not give Turnbull more credit than he’s worth.

          The only reason Malcolm Turnbull looked uncomfortable at the launch is because he, the evil genius who devised the plan, was forced to stand next to and put up with the idiocy of the man who took over from him and became his superior, the witless barbarian without class or subtlety known as Tony Abbott.

          • I disagree. The dismantling of the NBN and the imposition of the Clusterf— Technology Mix was probably designed by a third party similar to the IPA, who then fed it to the Coalition’s policy maker as “the party line”.

          • Are we trying to apportion blame to someone other than Turnbull here? He’s not “a good guy underneath it all”. He’s shown his true colours with how he’s treated the NBN and the people (commentators, interviewers, staff, journalists, other politicians and ordinary interested Australians) surrounding the project. Who we thought of as Turnbull before Tony took the leadership was merely the façade he had built up and maintained. If there’s one thing I’ll give Turnbull credit for that I couldn’t credit most other Liberal politicians with it’s his intelligence. The fact is, he’s been in on the whole thing from the beginning.

          • “I disagree. The dismantling of the NBN and the imposition of the Clusterf— Technology Mix was probably designed by a third party similar to the IPA, who then fed it to the Coalition’s policy maker as “the party line”.”

            A third party, yes. IPA, no.

            The “third party” is probably more “Third parties”, Ziggy, Greg and JB spring to mind…

  7. The Liberal Parties blatant policy for the NBN is to kill it under instruction from News Corporation because they can’t compete on broadband.
    How many more lies and distortion have to come out, now it’s blatantly do nothing until it is sold off to private corporation so not other government can fix it in future.
    Blatant, public, in your face corruption, not even trying to hide it any more.

  8. What was the purpose of this so called ‘motion’? Looks to me like a complete waste of the parliament’s time.

    • The purpose of this motion is (probably? I’m not a telepath) to allow the Abbott government to refer back to this motion to remind everyone that “this house” approved the decisions being made.

  9. Wish someone would ask Turnbull how the WOYY trial is going, or isn’t for that matter.

  10. “Sudmalis is not a complete n00b”

    Renai, I think you have mis-spelled the last word, and you could omit the third word.

  11. I don’t think killing is the answer.

    It was Turnbull whose position Abbott replaced in the first place.

  12. Seriously Anthony, take a chill pill. Extremism will not win anyone over to your cause and is more likely to push folks the other way…

  13. My point was the most likely candidate to replace Abbott is the idiot taking responsibility for this farcical version of the NBN anyway.

  14. They’d prefer to confuse people with NBN talk rather than how our countries universities are going to require a mortgage on your property to get a degree.

  15. Malcolm Turnbull is a clever man we now that, but maybe he’s mischievous as well. i don’t think he likes coalition policy (across a number of policy areas) on NBN and by having junior MP’s raise these types of issues in the HoR, it provokes debate from the opposition which then helps to generate on going debate in the community. Clearly a large chunk of Australians want NBN in it’s most efficient high tech form. I suspect Turnbull does too, but he has to tow coalition party line (for how much longer I wonder). Therefore by raising the issue instead of bunkering down, he may perversely or skillfully be re-engineering government policy to better reflect the community view.

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