Labor NBN FTTP policy an “expensive joke”, claims Financial Review


news The Financial Review newspaper has launched an extraordinary attack on Labor’s Fibre to the Premises-based National Broadband Network policy, describing it as an “expensive joke” and a “Kevin Rudd vanity project”, claiming that Labor has “no credibility” when it comes to broadband.

Yesterday Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare made a number of comments which gave some indication as to Labor’s future policy direction in terms of the National Broadband Network, with the Labor MP indicating that his party would continue to drive fibre further in the NBN project than the Coalition is currently planning.

You can read Delimiter’s full analysis of Clare’s comments here.

In response, the Financial Review published an editorial this morning stating that Labor has “no credibility in this area”. The newspaper wrote:

“The NBN as conceived under Rudd Labor turned an important piece of national infrastructure, running to a sensible timetable into a Kevin Rudd vanity project, with no real idea of the costs, that ran to a political schedule. It went from $4.7 billion in 2007, to $42 billion in 2009 to cost at least $56 billion today.

A lack of considered detail bedevilled the NBN under Labor. The fact the party doesn’t want to give any details about its new plan – or more accurately, a reinstatement of the old NBN – and not talk about the cost, makes this policy look like the last: an expensive joke.”

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield linked to the newspaper’s article from his Twitter account, stating: “The Financial Review editorial today says everything you need to know about Labor’s #NBN policy.”

The Financial Review has a long history of attacking Labor’s NBN project when Labor was in Government.

For example, in June 2012, in its main masthead editorial, the newspaper published a number of heavily disputed statements regarding the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network project, including backing the controversial claim that a new generation of wireless technologies could make the NBN’s fibre rollout obsolete.

In February 2013, the newspaper published a story claiming that the NBN project wouldn’t recover its costs by the year 2040, despite the fact that NBN Co explicitly stated in the same document reported by the AFR that there were several potential scenarios where it would recover the costs by that date.

In August 2012, following sustained criticism of the NBN project by the AFR and other newspapers such as The Australian, then-Communications Minister Stephen Conroy delivered a fiery tirade against the media for constantly repeating misconceptions about the NBN, singling out the Financial Review newspaper for particular ridicule and recommending that those interested in accuracy read broadband forum Whirlpool instead.

The AFR had, prior to 2011, had historically taken what many believed was a relatively even-handed approach to the NBN, in contrast with The Australian, which had regularly attacked the project from its inception in 2009.

However, it is widely believed that the appointment of Michael Stutchbury as Editor in Chief of the AFR in September 2011 marked a change in the newspaper’s approach to the NBN. Stutchbury was previously Editor of The Australian newspaper from 2001 to 2006. He had previously spent 16 years at the AFR.

Well I guess we now know where the Fin sits on the NBN. So much for reporting without fear or favour …

Image credit: J Miller, royalty free


  1. The history of the FR’s attitude to the NBN belies the politicization of the project. Stutchbury, ex editor of The Australian, still doing his master’s bidding (Murdoch/Liberal interests).
    If anything it reflects poorly on the credibility and integrity of the Financial Review.

    • say again?
      the AFR says labor has no credibility n this area?

      I’m sure they meant “Turnbull has no credibility”!

  2. $56 billion for a copper turd and they call FTTP an expensive joke? The joke is on Australian voters who will have to pay for it all again. $56 billion.

  3. “opinion/analysis
    Well I guess we now know where the Fin sits on the NBN. So much for reporting without fear or favour …”

    ummmmmmmmm that statement is kinda hypocritical, because you have shown a very clear bias in favour of the old FTTP NBN, you only have to read your posts over past few years to see why I say this.

    • I’m not biased in favour of FTTP, my support for FTTP is based on Delimiter’s Statement of Principles, specifically Principle 2. This Statement of Principles represents the broad view of the Delimiter community as a whole — I am merely its representative. Principle 2 states:

      “Principle 2: Where there is a choice of technologies to be implemented, we support the option that will be the best fit for purpose in the long-term.

      There are a number of different mechanisms for judging which technology should be implemented in any situation. Some are based on pure technical capability, some on human factors such as usability, and some on financial issues such as cost or return on investment.

      When judging what technology should be implemented, Delimiter believes that all available factors should be considered, with a view to finding the best solution for the long-term.”

      • Ohhh, I see, my bad, I thought you claimed to be an independent technology news site, but your not, your just another whingepool/blogger? OK then, now thats sorted, I guess I wont need to pop over to your website every morning, I enjoy reading unbias independent tech news articles (much the same reason I dont use whingepool)

        cheerio, all the best for future

        • Ta ta,

          If you are ever able to do your own summation (sans politics) as to why FttP is the only way to go and FttN (especially with new copper) is absolutely fucking ridiculous, feel free to return and apologise.

          Until such time, enjoy Bolt et al, as I’m sure their retrograde views on tech and their obvious leanings are more up you alley.


        • Actually, all he “claims” is “Just Australia. Just Technology”, but if you want to cry crocodile tears about, feel free…

        • He is independent of political influence, he bases his analysis on the best choosing the best technology for the task. It seems the sort of independence you are looking for is the Liberal party kind, where they want you to assume each party’s view is equally valid, independent of the facts.

          You’ll have to go elsewhere if that’s what you’re looking for.

          • No former greenie staffer is ‘independent of political influence’. Renai is a political animal. Not very objective, very left wing. An excellent writer, but one who clearly has no brains.

            If you’re under thirty and you’re not a socialist, you have no heart.

            If you’re over thirty and you’re still a socialist, you have no brains.

            I feel sorry for Renai. Great guy. Just seriously confused on the issues that matter. A real shame.

          • This is actually the very first time that someone has accused me of being biased towards the Greens since I stopped working for Scott. I would have expected it to happen more often!

            Obviously I approve of a lot of the Greens’ ideals and policies — I worked for them. However, philosophically I’m a Libertarian, and thus actually also fairly close to Senator Leyonhjelm’s views (except for on gun ownership etc).

            I’m also a small business owner, which very few Greenies are, which brings me closer to the white collar capitalist asset owner class.

            “If you’re under thirty and you’re not a socialist, you have no heart. If you’re over thirty and you’re still a socialist, you have no brains.”

            Broadly I’d agree with this :)

          • @Renai: I think you should go and have a crack at either Liberal Democrats, PU or Motoring Party now!… since at this point you’ve been called bias for every major party.. might as well add the smaller one’s to your respertoire.

            That way we can say your biased for everyone!

          • A former greenie…

            “If you’re over thirty and you’re still a socialist, you have no brains.”


            For conclusive proof of this just refer to George Dubbya, Tony Abbott, Donald Trump and Joe Walden ;)

        • Don’t forget to close the door , on your way out . Nobody forcing you to come here ? See Ya .

    • @ Nobby,

      Actually – if you have indeed been following his posts from “over past few years”, earlier readings of his, if I am not mistaken, actually talked favorably of a MTM NBN. At the time the Coalition suggested it would choose which ever technology fits their fast, affordable and (uhmmm fast again?) motto. And FTTP seemed like a strong contender considering the idea of FTTN would be idiotic in most areas where the copper is beyond repair.

      Even the coalitions own strategic review at the time suggested a radically redesigned FTTP is a viable option. Back then to some people the Coalitions approach to the NBN seemed sensible. Snap forward to 2015, the MTM cost estimates have since doubled, Telstra has been handed $11 billion dollars because lols, and the NBN has gone from “within 6 months” 3 years ago for my area to “beyond 2016”.

      You seriously need to look beyond all criticism as being ‘bias’ and actually look at what is going on.

    • “you have shown a very clear bias in favour of the old FTTP NBN”

      Actually, Renai came to no personal conclusions that I saw about the issue…
      Those conclusions appear based on the facts and not any bias. If the MTM has no good solid logic behind its creation, then calling it a bad decision is not a form of political bias but a form of logical analysis.
      I find it sad that so many folks think that attacking a bad plan is a political leaning rather than common sense…

      • They only do it to derail the argument, as they have nothing valid to add otherwise…

    • Hahaha.. oh dear perhaps one of the most amusing attempts at trolling so far..

      I cannot even begin to count how many times Renai got slagged for supporting FTTN and Mr Turnbull up to the point post election when he finally showed his hand pretty much demolished any semblance of at least attempting to build a decent network by drastically reducing FTTP rollouts further (including cutting existing contracts when expedient, including HFC, and drastically changing the “goals”

  4. So is this the leftist media, that all the visionless, far right, living in the past, plastic bubble, 1950’s (copper loving) cheerleaders have dismissed as biased against, them and their err, visionless, far right, living in the past, plastic bubble, 1950’s outlook for “our” future?

    LOL how the Fin handpicked the initial RFP $4.7B thru to the MTM $56B to criticise, the long gone Rudd though?

    But WTF? Who is in government now and why does every rad con, feel the need to dwell on what was and not on what is to try to unsuccessfully justify retrograde mediocrity for Australia and Australian’s? Oh silly me, of course, because, they are visionless, far right, living in the past, plastic bubble, 1950’s cheerleaders.

    One would have hoped, having seen the vast majority arc up against Tony and his, visionless, living in the past, plastic bubble, 1950’s, Straya, that even those maniacal wing nuts within the Liberal party, might see the new more “liberal”, Liberal leader as a get out of gaol/jail free card and they’d at least try control their mates in the media? But no, perhaps Mal’s post 1950’s views are just too much for these people?

    But to be fair I suppose even just right of centre right Fairfax media, is too far left for the visionless, living in the past, plastic bubble, 1950’s copper loving cheerleaders and being so, the Murdoch’s empire, with their visionless, living in the past, plastic bubble, 1950’s take are more cosy for (you guessed it) … the visionless, living in the past, plastic bubble, 1950’s morons, that such rubbish news appeals to.

  5. The AFR only gets half it’s business news right, so I doubt their tech section/commenting is worth a brass razoo…

  6. Ah the good old Fin Review, another pay-walled, old media outlet pretending to be relevant and continuing their long history of not comprehending any topic containing technology!

  7. Looks like we need a new Communications Minister. Funny how they mention that the cost of the FTTP went from $4.7b in 2007 to $42b in 2009 and $56b today. If I remember from some articles a few weeks ago, FTTN cost as much if not more than $56b or did I miss something? It seems FTTN has become an expensive joke, not FTTP. Unlike FTTN, FTTP will be worth the cost. Don’t even know why Fifield would link that article in a tweet because it has no credibility. The article reeks of hypocrisy and is nothing more than an attack on Labor.

    • $4.7b in 2007 was for FTTN, $42b in 2009 was for FTTH and the $56b today. Mitch Fifield doesn’t mention that under the Coalition the cost of FTTN went up 5b-15b in one year.
      I was expecting the cost to increase by a couple of billion each year so from 2009 to 2015 a period of 6 years an increase of $12-$14 billion would have been about right.
      If you compare $56b spread over 10 years and our Defence Budget is currently $29b PER YEAR or $290b over 10 years excluding inflation. Comms expenditure is not that bad and when you consider the increase in GDP of 2% predicted from better Comms would be $42b PER YEAR (GDP 2013 2.1Trillion AU) the increase in GDP would pay for the FTTP in a year and a bit and pay for our Defence Budget there after and a lot more.

      • Road construction and maintenance for Australia is about $22B/yr according to BIS Shrapnel, so a nationwide capital works program to overbuild comms costing ~$56B over a decade looks to be pretty good value.

  8. Is it just me or are the Financial Review dribbling on about Labour’s NBN FTTP policy yet quoting Liberal financial figures? And even if Labour’s final figure was 74 billion or whatever cost the Liberals want to announce today it will still ultimately be a finished product. They seem to forget that the Liberal’s 56 billion is only a sort of Stage 1 of the total build which will require upgrading on or before completion at an unknown cost. This will undoubtedly take the MTM total cost way past Labour’s 74 billion.
    IMO this article just makes them look totally stupid.

  9. The piece presented a very narrow view, centred on cost. Nothing about the state of the copper network, “the Elephant in the room.” Nothing about speeds and value, nothing about the years of continuous modifying to increase performance and nothing about what the final result is to be. Lots of blowouts from LNP, nothing about bandwidth,. We don’t care if it costs $100 billion if it is future proof and fast, its cheap. You miss the whole point, we want PERFORMANCE,not excuses.
    In the future, people will ask why were the pollies so short sighted ! “The Great Lament”. Its expensive if it doesn’t do the job, no matter what the price.

    • Exactly Lee and this is always the way with such blind bean counters.

      They scream CBA but then only accept the costs (and of course, those costs which suit their own predetermined outcome) and disregard the benefits, as pie in the sky.

      Then they argue along those blinkered lines, calling anyone who questions their one sided cost analysis a fibre fanboy…

      Funny part is the cheaper network has blown out by some $15B making it no cheaper or maybe even more expensive (when factoring copper maintenance/renewal and powering nodes etc) and considering “all Australian’s were promised completion of 25-50Mbps (iirc) by 2016”, it’s certainly (been) no faster, in fact slower…

      • It could only have been cheaper (by about $1bn) on the assumption that they’d only need 50 to 70,000 nodes to get everyone within 800m to 1km (which would give terrible performance using VDSL2 – ADSL2+ is superior beyond about 700m). Apparently node density is more like 2 to 300m max length, which puts the number of nodes somewhere between 200 and 300,000. At that number, FTTN is vastly more expensive than FTTP.

  10. I don’t have an issue with a hybrid system, but what we should have done is:
    1. left the copper untouched in the ground for legacy technologies, especially landlines, as the FTTP solution is inferior.
    2. just gone with FTTP in the capital cities.
    3. used FTTN to highrise buildings
    4. used mobile wireless and the NBN satellite service for regional and remote

    But if FTTN is an answer to anything other than to highrise then we’ve asked the wrong question. We’d be better off abandoning the rollout.

    • Surely you mean FTTB for ‘highrise apartments’, not FTTN? FTTN isn’t even workable for that deployment.

      FTTP is not inferior to copper for anything. I’m not going to waste time explaining technicalities of how and why, life’s too short. But there are zero reasons to maintain copper for voice over fibre. None.

      Fixed wireless and satellite are woefully inadequate for ‘regional and remote’ premises. They’re OK as a stop-gap measure, but they’re no long term solution. Particularly satellite – those two NBN satellites will be fully subscribed within a couple of years, and then what? FTTP is the only logical end game, and when the costs of upgrading are so high and there are no logical intermediate steps, it makes a great deal of sense to simply skip straight to what you would have ended up with eventually anyway.

  11. Sadly, this is a prime example of how ethically eroded the once proud career of journalism has become. AFR appears to have ceased being a news source, and has become merely a publicist for a political party.
    This is the only story sadder than the degradation of the NBN that I have seen in the last few years, and it strains my ability to have hope for our future…

  12. “including backing the controversial claim that a new generation of wireless technologies could make the NBN’s fibre rollout obsolete.”

    Why say “controversial”, there’s nothing controversial about it!
    It’s flat out incorrect, so call it that. Don’t give it any credibility by conceding that it’s controversial.

    Any year 12 Physics student can understand and demonstrate that it wouldn’t work in a real world scenario, so anyone arguing otherwise is either ignoring the facts, doesn’t have a basic understanding (which in either case, their opinion cannot be considered valid) or is a Genius about to announce a massive flaw in elemental Physics and Mathematics.

  13. The NBN was doomed once it became politicised. The coalition policy is to spend as little money now and hope in the future some technology will supersede FTTP and will be cheaper, then they will look like geniuses. The issue is its not going to be wireless, which is what I suspect they think, but shows a clear lack of understanding of the reasons why one would still want a fixed communications network.

    Meanwhile Labor had a utopian plan, that if they pulled it off would have been amazing. I fear they probably should have aimed a bit lower and had upgrade plans in place. The problem with Labors plan politically was it was too far in the future and easy picking politically.

    Its a shame because any true nation building infrastructure projects, like fast rail will always have this political barricade, especially while negative politics goes on. Now I’d like to think Turnbull is trying to get away from negative and divisive politics, which is a good sign. Hopefully Labor can too and we may eventually get some genuine nation building infrastructure built.

  14. FUNny how the Libs can continue to complain about a hypothetical cost blowout of Labors NBN vision of $14b in 6 years (2009-2015), when the Libs have already blown the cost of their ‘cheaper’* MTM solution by $15b in just 2 years and they only just begun (after a delay of 1.5 years where Aus stagnated instead of progressed as would have happened if FTTP development wasn’t halted).

    *Cost blowout brings todays tally for MTM to $56b, the exact same figure as todays hypothetical cost for Labors FTTP in its entirety.

    This, for a decade-inferior technology that 8 years ago was slammed by our now-PM as ‘fraudband’ when Labor first introduced the FTTN NBN before switching to FTTP on the advice of clever people who actually know what they’re talking about the world over. This, for an upgrade to 65 year old infrastructure that will need to be replaced by FTTP in just 5-10 years according to our now-PMs own paid-for reviews.

    An upgrade that will see us paying the same amount again for something that should have been done 15 years prior.

    How this government has treated this countries largest ever infrastructure project is criminal and NEEDS to be met with a Royal Inquisition.

    • No hotcakes it’s a blowout of $27B in 2 years since the 2013 promise said it would be done with $29B

      • Well, Malcolm had to pay Telstra extra for their copper, and extra for their HFC before he even started rolling out the inferior FTTN.

        Just wait til the maintenance bills start rolling in for this 60 year old infrastructure! Not to mention the running costs for all the “active” technology in street side cabinets. $29b will pale in comparison.

        • The hilarious thing about that is that the (supposedly) economically superior Liberal party paid those billions on something “sight unseen”…no wonder they got a lemon…

          • Tinman_au
            A lemon is when you can a defective product even though it looked good.

            Everyone knows how bad the copper network in Australia is.

            Even IINet running out FTTN in ACT said most faults they found where in the last mile of copper.

  15. Sensationalism journalism pandering to a Liberal demographic, filled with inaccuracies and misinformation.
    The only joke here is the Financial Review.

  16. Could someone confirm “what is the maximum bandwidth at the node for FTTN) please.
    I have read its only 2Gb or 2000 Mpbs is this correct????

  17. Of course crucial components are missing from the Labor “Back to FTTP” bandwagon:

    1. What it will actually cost to complete their resurrected FTTP vision.
    2. What decade it will be finished.

    Fortunately we have the history of their NBN FTTP build before they were booted out of Government and new Government was elected on a different NBN platform build to show us what will actually happen.

    1. The cost will blowout drastically.
    2. The finish date will constantly revised.

    The electorate come election time 2016 will look at both NBN options, weigh up what the Coalition have done re the NBN rollout at that point and take a punt assuming the NBN is a crucial vote decider who is going to deliver a ADSL2+ replacement or even a first time BB platform FTTP, FTTN, HFC, wireless or satellite to them first.

    • It doesn’t seam to have done the New Zealanders any harm from abandoning FTTN and adopting FTTH.

      • It doesn’t seem to have done the UK, Germany, Austria and Belgium any harm rolling out FTTN either.

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