Turnbull starts his pitch: ‘The Prime Minister for Innovation’


news Malcolm Turnbull has used his first brief comments as Australia’s 29th Prime Minister to emphasise that Australia is facing disruption driven by technology, and that the nation needs to work to take advantage of that trend rather than rejecting it.

The Member for Wentworth resigned as Communications Minister earlier today and captured the Liberal leadership from incumbent Prime Minister Tony Abbott with a vote of 54 for Turnbull and 44 for Abbott. Julie Bishop will remain by Turnbull’s side as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and Foreign Minister.

In his first comments to a brief media conference in Parliament House in Canberra, Turnbull — technically the PM-elect until he is sworn in by the Governor-General — emphasised that he wanted the Australia of the future to be “agile, innovative and creative”.

Turnbull said that Australia needed to recognise that the disruption that was occuring driven by technological change was “our friend”, if the nation was agile and smart enough to take advantage of it. “There has never been a more exciting time to be alive than today,” the PM-elect said. “There has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian.”

The Member for Wentworth said he wanted to ensure that all Australians understood that their Government recognised the opportunities of the future, and that the Government had the policies and the plans to take advantage of that.

Turnbull gave the examples of issues in his previous Communications portfolio — such as the NBN and the challenges facing Australia Post — as being situations where he had dealt with very big business problems, but communicated the issues facing those organisations.

The PM-elect’s speech tonight appeared to draw from a speech Turnbull gave last week at the launch of a cross-party Parliamentary Friends of the Internet group.

At the event, Turnbull said the pace of the transformation currently being driven by the Internet was “quite unprecedented”. “We’re living in the most exciting time in human history,” he added. “The pace of change, which is being ampified by the Internet, is extraordinary.”

At the event, Turnbull said the “big dividing line” in the political sector at the moment was not Labor versus Liberal but between those who were “afeared” of the future, and those who embraced it.

“Rupert Murdoch said once that the Internet will destroy more profitable businesses than it will create,” Turnbull added. “I don’t agree with him, [although] it’s probably true as far as his company is concerned — because it is a threat to the established order.”

Turnbull’s succession to the Prime Ministership comes as both major sides of politics have recently spent time wooing Australia’s technology startup sector.

Labor, for instance, has formed an internal policy and campaigning group focused around innovation and engaging with the tech startup sector, while the Coalition has recently passed legislation changing the taxation arrangements around employee share schemes — a key ask of the technology startup sector — as well as engaging with startups themselves.

Stirring words by Turnbull tonight, and it’s hard not to be inspired by a Prime Minister who talks about equipping Australia for the future, instead of constantly talking up coal mining and car manufacturing. In addition, it is true that Turnbull has had a long association with the technology startup sector.

However, as I wrote earlier today, our new Prime Minister-elect has not always been a friend to Australia’s technology sector. Australian technology startups — as with pretty much the rest of Australia’s tech sector — are broadly in favour of Labor’s original Fibre to the Premises model for the NBN, and have roundly criticised Turnbull’s radical reshaping of the project, with the new Multi-Technology Mix.

Then, too, Turnbull has not exactly covered himself with glory through his support for the controversial Data Retention, Internet piracy and even Internet filtering policies which have been a part of his portfolio over the past two years. The actions he has taken in these areas have been noted by Australia’s technology sector — and noted unfavourably.

If Turnbull is serious about building a stronger Australian economy focused on innovation, he will need to address this past behaviour, as well as starting to work directly on issues such as taxation reform, supporting Australia’s venture capital industry, committing to better broadband infrastructure, boosting our video game development industry, and more.

The previous Abbott administration has been weak on all of these fronts, drastically chopping funding from a range of areas associated with innovation and pumping cash into traditional sectors such as resources and manufacturing. Turnbull will have a long way to go before he can truly turn that trend around.

In addition, right now, Australia’s tech sector particularly knows Turnbull as the Minister who demolished Labor’s previous near-universal fibre NBN policy. If the Member for Wentworth wants to be known as the Prime Minister for innovation, that’s another item of stigma he will need to shake off.

Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull


  1. Well at least we can say Abbott is no longer PM. Australia is no longer an international embarrassment due to this utter buffoon. He wont be missed. As for the NBN, I don’t expect that to change, coalition clowns are still clowns regardless of communication minister…

    • I guess we’ll find out over the next couple of weeks HC. I still have this nagging thought that wont go away that Turnbull has been sandbagging the FttN rollout for as long as he could, knowing it was a dud idea.

      Could very well be wishful thinking, but I think its significant that no real work has been done yet to roll out ANY FttN. So its not hard to revert back to FttP.

      • Yeah I have that nagging feeling as well. But the pessimist in me firmly believes that nothing will change. How does Turnbull make a change to the NBN without being seen as fool for his decisions.

        The only way he could spin it is that because it has taken so long, it is now necessary to move up the program. Go HFC, FTTB, FTTP as the primary methodologies.

        The problem with that, is that then he has just spent 11 billion dollars buying a network he isn’t going to use. So unfortunately, to prevent political damage, nothing will change, we will still end up with a second rate nbn.

        • To be fair, the original deal with Telstra was the same price and didnt include the copper, so whether they use the copper or not doesn’t really matter at this point.

        • Replacing FTTN with FTTdp could be seen as a move allowing easier migration towards a full FTTP solution. Removing more reliance on problematic copper and enabiling easier options for customer upgrade to run their own fiber lead in from the street. This while still making use of an established but upgraded HFC network would be steps in the right direction while not appearing to be a backflip as such.

        • How does Turnbull make a change to the NBN without being seen as fool for his decisions.

          That’s the thing though, he doesn’t need to make large changes straight away, a few percent here, a few percent there (especially given the state of the CAN as documented by Renai here many times) and the MTM could have a lot lower FttN in the mix.

          I expect the HFC portion to remain pretty well at it’s current level though. That was the only portion of his MTM that made any sense in the short-medium term.

          • It won’t happen before the election (if it ever does). There’s no way he’s going to give anyone ammo about him going back on years of party rhetoric, I’d wager the party would flip its nut as well.

            Honestly we’d be better of with labour having another go than whatever is seen as politically expedient for the liberals if they win the next election.

      • Could very well be wishful thinking, but I think its significant that no real work has been done yet to roll out ANY FttN.

        Is very much wishful thinking. Look at it this way, the coalition clowns have just discovered the winning formula for dealing with unpopular policies. Just dump the PM and carry on as usual to give the perception something has changed for the better to increase chances of winning the next election. It’s not just their GimpCo policy either, data retention and the rest of their shitty policies will remain, the only difference is it’ll sound more palatable coming from Turnbull because he is not a buffoon.

  2. “disruption driven by technology”
    and I’d love to join in cept, you know, my adsl1 can’t handle.

    +1 for Hubert Cumberdale

  3. Stirring words by Turnbull tonight, and it’s hard not to be inspired by a Prime Minister who talks about equipping Australia for the future,

    For all our sakes I really hope hope he’s more than just talk and for example puts the NBN back on the track he derailed it from.

    He could be a good pm, but after the last few years he has to earn my trust and respect and that won’t be easy!

    • I wouldn’t expect a grand gesture/announceable style change Derek, even Labor wouldn’t do that.

      I expect they’ll both look more at low key adjustments of “the mix”, be less inclined to do remedial work on the copper, that kind of thing. That’d be the smart way of doing it, anyway.

  4. I’ve just been reading the transcripts from last night and this doesn’t bode well for a change of direction for the NBN imo.


    Can I just really take one more. Fran, there you are.

    Reporter: You talked a lot about the economic vision, the economic challenges, Joe Hockey took a little offence at that, said you were wrong. Are you talking about the fact that the economic directions were incorrect or just the capacity to have the conversation and explain it to the people? Are you going to change economic direction or change the way you tell the story?

    Malcolm Turnbull: Fran, let me put this to you. In terms of talking about the economy, talking about business, a key element is confidence and you build confidence by explaining as I said earlier, explaining what the problem is, making sure people understand it and then setting out the options for dealing with it.

    You’ve seen in my own portfolio of communications where I’ve had to deal with very big business problems whether it’s with NBN or indeed with Australia Post. That’s the approach I’ve taken. Laying out what the issues are, getting the facts straight, explaining that and then presenting a path forward and making the case for that path forward.

    Facts straight, “pigs arse”!

  5. Minister for disruption and innovation…? Lol .. He doesn’t have the world class fibre network to deliver it..
    Imagine Coles and Woolworths using horse and cart for nation wide delivery.

    • “Minister for Disinformation and Spin”

      There fixed that for you

      As you say, the foundations for long term or even short to medium term successful innovation has largely been gutted already.

  6. Why, oh why do people desperately cling to FTTH being just around the corner, if only the government would see!

    They don’t care. Turnbull now certainly doesn’t care, at least to what technology is in use. He’s now got considerably more important issues to attend to.

    Like not being white-anted by the hard-right who are completely unhinged this morning. They went to bed with their chosen slogan spouting muppet, Abbott at the helm; and wake up with the debonair and Parseltongue center-right Malcolm at the wheel.

    The entire talk-back industry is likely to suffer several myocardial infarctions later today. It’s actually quite funny.

    Thing is, though. Turnbull is and was always more interested in a broader view of Australia and it’s economy and policy. He’s a moderate. It’s the same reason the NBN became a bunch of tools to get the job done. Rather than perhaps the better tool.

    NBNco’s direction has been set primarily by politics. It long long since stopped being a technology discussion. Roadmap is set. It will be expensive and we’ll have to spend more, a lot more, in future. But this is the outcome.

    Our economy probably needs that steady hand at this point. More so than a cluster-fuck of policy that will never be passed.

    This means at least the notion of broadband will be understood by the leader. More so than Tony “I’m no tech-head Kerry” Abbott.

    Labor should be scared as hell. Shortbread should be scared as hell. He’s just lost the next election.

    • I think Labor would be mad to go to the election with Shorten. There message has been lost time and time again. At this point they look like stooges. Not standing against when they should be, rubber stamping bad policies and then thinking about it afterwards. They look like a group who was trying to pick their battles, but were picking the wrong ones.
      Shorten should resign as leader. Allow the internal election to go ahead.

      • To be fair, I did tweet to Albo a couple times last night “m8, it’s time”. :)

        As much as Labor is probably (perhaps rightfully?) terrified of ousting party leaders, this is still a Westminster political system, and Shortfall has about as much chance of winning the next election, as the Sun has of imploding next week.

        They need to stop bringing a wet-noodle to a knife fight. Albo or Pilbersek would be ideal leaders. Both are strong but have good party ties. And both are liked by the people.

        Whether that’s Pilbersek or Albo as leader I’m not sure. Anything is better than Shortfall.

    • I agree, he has all the charisma of dead fish, Albo would be a great PM – imo he has all the good qualities of Keating (wit, intellect etc) with none of the nasties (lack of empathy etc).

      Albo also gets National infrastructure including the NBN. Albo + Plibisek would be an amazing team imo!

  7. I don’t believe he can be called a PM-Elect as he was not elected, but is a PM Designate. Just sayin’ ?

    • Well….technically he was elected (54-44).

      And anyway, for some odd reason, Australians always seem to think they “elect” a Prime Minister. They never have, and they never will, they elect politicians who then vote for a leader. Thats how parliamentary systems work.

      If the Australian public really want to vote to elect a leader, they should back a Republic and then vote for a President.

      • He was elected leader of the Liberals, being PM was a consequence of that ? But I agree, bring on a Republic.

      • I just wish some of the clowns who work in the media understood this! Here in Perth on this morning’s ABC show, the announcer kept saying things like ‘..and now we’ll ask a few more people how they like having a new PM without having voted for him’. Bloody muppet! We DON’T vote for a PM!! We vote for a member of Parliament who is also a member of a political party that decides who will be the leader – or PM if they are in power. As Tinman says, that’s how it has always been.

        • Yep, they need to go back to basics in the school system….ditch “Religious Education/Instruction” for “ethics and philosophy” and start covering stuff like other cultures and political systems better :/

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