It’s our damn NBN satellite, says Labor


news The Australian Labor Party has issued a fiery statement noting that it was responsible for commissioning the National Broadband Network satellite that successfully launched from French Guiana this morning, reminding the electorate that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull “fought tooth and nail” against the idea of the NBN company launching its own satellite infrastructure.

This morning the NBN company — in partnership with a number of other companies such as Arianespace, SSL, ViaSat, Optus and Ericsson — launched its own satellite into the skies over Australia from the South American country of French Guiana. The satellite is the first of two that are designed to provide speeds of up to 25Mbps to more than 400,000 homes and businesses in remote areas of Australia.

New Communications Minister Mitch Fifield issued a statement this morning claiming the satellite service was “part of the Government’s plan to make sure Austalians who need it most have access to better broadband”.

However, Labor issued its own statement this morning in the name of Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare and Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs Joel Fitzgibbon.

The statement pointed out that the two NBN satellites had been “commissioned and contracted under the previous Labor Government. “Australians living in rural and remote Australia have had to make do with poor internet access for too long. Labor understands that broadband is an essential utility, like electricity or water. That is why Labor commissioned these satellites in 2012 to give people in the bush access to fast broadband,” the two Shadow Ministers said.

“Fortunately for rural and regional Australians, Labor signed the contracts for delivery of these satellites before the last election.”

Labor’s statement pointed out that as Shadow Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull had opposed constructing the satellites.

“Malcolm Turnbull fought tooth and nail against these satellites when in Opposition,” the Labor MPs said. “He called the satellites a “Rolls-Royce solution” and “wasteful spending.””

In 2012, when he was Shadow Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull said: “There is enough capacity on private satellites already in orbit or scheduled for launch for the NBN to deliver broadband to the 200,000 or so premises in remote Australia without building its own.”

“In a backflip worthy of [Romanian gymnast] Nadia Comăneci, Malcolm Turnbull now calls these satellites a “game changer.” Labor welcomes the belated support from Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party for the NBN Satellite program. As they say, better late than never.”

“Labor understands the importance of expanding internet access in regional Australia and the launch of these satellites is a concrete example of a Labor Government delivering for the bush. One up, one to go – we look forward to the second of Labor’s NBN satellites being launched in 2016.”

Labor has also published a video online — download it here — of Turnbull criticising the satellite launch effort.

Turnbull’s statement on the NBN’s satellites no longer appears in full on his website — but it is available archived online.

Turnbull was also contradicted at the time by Optus chief Paul O’Sullivan, who stated that the company’s satellite capacity — the largest in Australia — was already accounted for and could not meet nbn’s requirements.

We don’t always see such a clear-cut case in politics, but in this case Labor is 100 percent accurate — it can indeed take credit for supporting the NBN company to build its own satellites. As I wrote in August:

“I would respectfully make two very humble suggestions to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Firstly, I would suggest that the Minister acknowledge that he was wrong in his statements in Opposition about existing satellite capacity in Australia being able to meet the needs of the NBN project.

Secondly, I would suggest that the Minister acknowledge that the previous Labor Government was seeking to address this issue by having nbn build its own satellites.

It’s true that nbn didn’t manage its Interim Satellite Service as well as it could have under the previous Labor administration, and that the company has put in some workarounds under the Coalition administration to help resolve this issue as a stopgap. However none of that changes the fact that it was Labor which kicked off both programs to start with. That was the right thing to do then — and it is still the right thing to do now.”

Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting


  1. Hang on a sec, under Labor the satellites were to cover 200,000 premises now it’s 400k with D.P.I. to boot! Malcolm, the gift that just keeps on giving to the Australian public.

  2. Scavengers, trying to take credit for those Satellites. Grrrr. Morrow, Ziggy nor Turnbull can take any glory for them.
    What many didn’t, know was that the contract was designed, signed and sealed prior to current nbnco admin. Quigley, Conroy and team, and yes even Julia were the brains behind this, in spite of vexatious opposition from lnp and Turnbull. Quigley also included launch and 12 mths after launch insurance into the contract. And bugger all have given credit to his team for this visionary project. Let’s not let them forget.

  3. He said launching NBN satellites would be a waste of money and he was wrong. He has said in the past he does not see Australia needing more than 25mbps broadband so a full FTTP rollout would be wasteful and he will be wrong about that in 5 years time. It is a shame we will never actually see Turnbull admit he had been wrong about the NBN since his time as Communications Minister though. Quick! Save all the articles in which he criticises the NBN and an FTTP rollout before they get deleted and send it all back to him in 2020.

  4. Turnbull is what I call a fool wizard.
    Brilliant brain. But no depth or insight to go with it. He’s like a wizard who has all the magic spells in the world but uses them to create a million Freddo Frogs. He is like that cartoon The Wizard of Id.

  5. OK, we can all see he’s wrong.

    I don’t think he would disagree if he was off the record. (I know I know I sound gullible – I also don’t know the man)

    Anyhoo, Government looks to me like ‘Golden Syrup’, you knock a tin over and it takes all day to leak everywhere!

    My point is, that I have this idea – hope really – that over the next few months that they will start to change the direction. That the Government will need a large infrastructure project that creates new skills and jobs.

    That they will continue to boost training in ‘splicing fibre’ as they will move back to the 21C plan of FTTHOME.

    We’ve precious little else that we can look to the future, we need a Technology sector, we need a Venture Capitalist culture, we need a nation of small businesses to be able to connect with a true fibre to anywhere in Australia.

    Malcolm has looked at the books, he can see the Mining CAPX Cliff, he can see Consumer Debt at Australian record HIGHS, he knows we can’t continue with house prices to the moon in the unproductive sector of the economy. He knows we need to make stuff not sell dirt and houses.

    So, if I am right and I have hope … maybe just maybe Malcolm will get the NBN back on track and we will have investment in the productive side of the economy and the new backbone of the Australian economy is NBN Fibre.

    I have hope.

    Cheers, Clinton.

    • Even Labour admits FttN is here to stay for the interim and they cannot change it if they took power. So sorry Clinton nothing will change from its current path the best we can do is keep them honest about what it is and isn’t doing (and try and make sure credit goes where its due).

      • Hi Simon, thank you, I know you’re right. But I have an NBN dream! :) I guess it could be a sound bit from The Castle; “Tell [I’m] he’s dreamin!”.

        But don’t you think Simon, we, Australia, are really missing a massive opportunity … look at the Atlassian success … and I know you could say it’s our only local. But, I also understand that there are 28,000 Australians in Silicon Valley!

        But I agree, at the end of the day, this site, Renai of course and us ‘Bruce Public’ need to keep the bastards honest.

        Bon weekend, Clinton.

        • Simon is right, Labor are a lit more bi partisan than the Libs.

          Bi Partisan adjective of or involving the agreement or cooperation of two political parties that usually oppose each other’s policies.

          Vote fore some one, or some party, that will work for the people tht vote fore them.
          The moral of that, is don’t vote for the Libs/Nats, vote fore someone, or some party, that will work for the people that vote them in….

        • I have to disagree with you Simon, yes Labor will have to honour any contracts signed by the Coalition but they can still increase the Fibre foot print and reduce the size of the FTTN foot print if they are voted in at the next election. You write as if its all done and dusted, it’s not they will be rolling out this NBN for add least an other 2 or maybe more government terms.

  6. Jesus H people, quit bagging Malcolm, he’s the best we have till Scott or Jason get in…

    • Malcolm, Scott or Jason, well that fills me with hope……NOT. I’ve got a dead cockroach on my floor that would make a better PM, At least it doesn’t try to hide what it is.

  7. Hang on, NBN co is looking at implementing ways to restrict downloading on these satellites. Maximum quotas of under 70GB could be on the cards. I even read there could possible be two tier CVC pricing on NBN satellite for RSP’s. Apparently the satellites labor chose are not up to the task of providing enough internetz for 3% of premises or around 400 000, which is the approx number of premises. I can now hear the true labor NBN true believers scurrying around to try to think up an excuse and blame the liberal party for that.

    Good to know labor are now admitting their stuff up.

    • Well Frank, if you had been reading some of the other comments, you might have seen that the original satellite plan was to service 200,000 customers, but now under the LNP it is being spread around 400,000 customers.

      It looks like satellite has become the LNP dumping ground for those customers in the too hard basket.

      There was no Labor stuff up, just the typical Coalition bait and switch.

    • Hang on, the libs version of NBN want to connect 400k premises to a system designed for 200k and it’s labors fault there may not be enough capacity? I can now hear the true liberal NBN believers scurrying around to try to think up an excuse and blame the labor party for that.

      Good to know liberal are stealing credit and blaming everyone else as usual.

      Edit – what Graham said.

    • I believe the 200k/400k figure is accurate as they will launch 2 sat’s, the system has capacity for 200k connections per sat. I also believe they will impose a maximum quota but don’t believe it will be anywhere near as generous as 70Gb. The new sats are great and will be a great addition to rural Australia but unless they are carefully managed they will reach capacity real quick.

  8. It is easy to see why Australia rates so low in education when people cannot do basic maths.

    Lets see now, the labor plan was for 3% of premises in Australia to be covered by satellite, correct?

    Now there are 12 to 13 million premises in Australia. (Don’t believe, me go google it)

    What is 12 000 000 X 0.03 (or 3%). My maths says 360 000.

    So the satellite NBN solution was always to cover approx 400 000 premises.

    Unless you think the Labor NBN was never designed to cover 100% of Australia and they were just lying all this time.

    Anyone want to argue with that?

    • Notwithstanding your arithmetic, the original expectation for satellite coverage was 230,000 premises. There was talk of a third satellite to extend that, but pushing out the fixed wireless footprint was considered a better option.

      With the ascent of Turnbull we’ve seen not just the fibre footprint slashed, but also a trimming down of the fixed wireless coverage. This is what leaves the gap now being filled by 200,000 extra satellite customers.

      So yeah, I suppose I do want to argue with your little bit of historical revisionism.

  9. I miss the fact that taxpayer equity sits underneath nbn/ NBN be it the 2007 version, 2009 version or 2013 version.
    It may have taken nbn/ NBN 8 years to get the first satellite up if not serving yet, with the NBN interim satellite service continuing to be underdelivering, it is nice to see that one set of fed gov can launch an infrastructure initiatve that actually results in another set of fed gov announcing it almost getting there, in the third term following.
    After all, Versailles on Lake Bloxyz Griffin too often has made surprising moves that haven’t advanced Australia, fair. Policies that don’t make sense. Pollytics instead of competence. No services delivery.
    Offloading Aussat with something like more than three times debt over equity onto a then start-up Optus.
    Bundling Telecom/ OTC.
    Privatising Telstra. Assuming Optus and AAPT would …
    No to Telstra FTTN of 2005.
    Cancelling Opel Networks’ DSL/ WiMAX of 2007.
    Abandoning NBN FTTN mk1, NBN FTTP mk2, before moving to nbn MTM mk3.
    No wonder Australia has slipped on wired broadband access benchmarks … given OECD advise for regulatory reform, competition for infrastructure and services, neutrality of technology was only partially followed.
    Any of the homes that I have lived in over the last decade still can only get copper/ DSL or HFC/ cable internet, terrestrial wireless, and now FTTB from TPG. No nbn.
    I also note the ACCC has just gone for reducing wholesale copper costs, lets see if the same thing will happen to nbn wholesale access/ quota/ service quality and interPOI charges.

Comments are closed.