Hockey pays “tribute” to Labor’s NBN project in final speech


news One of the Coalition’s most vocal critics of the National Broadband Network, former Treasurer Joe Hockey, has used his final speech to Federal Parliament to praise the previous Labor Government for initiating the project, which he described as “a very significant commitment”.

Over the past several years in his time as Shadow Treasurer and then Treasurer under the Abbott administration, Hockey emerged as a significant critic of the NBN, which was initiated under the first administration of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

For example, in June 2012 Hockey inaccurately stated in a radio interview in Tasmania that 4G mobile broadband had the potential to be “far superior” to the fibre technology Labor’s version of the NBN used, in a controversial interview in which he also claimed that it could cost Australians up to $1,000 to connect to the NBN.

Hockey later claimed that the comments had been taken out of context, but over subsequent years the Liberal MP would make a number of other comments highly critical of the NBN.

In October 2012 the outgoing Member for North Sydney claimed that the NBN could cost as much as $100 billion to build, despite the company’s own estimates at the time having shown that it would require around $37 billion of capital injection from the Government and eventually make a return, paying back the investment with some profit on top.

Also that month, Hockey further heavily criticised the funding model for the NBN, maintaining that the funding should be treated as an expense on the Federal Budget, despite direct evidence to the contrary, including the acknowledgement of fellow Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull.

And in July this year, Hockey described the NBN as initiated by Labor as having “massive structural problems”.

However, in his valedictory speech to Parliament on Wednesday, Hockey changed his tune with respect to the NBN, using a segment of the speech to openly praise Labor for initiating the project.

The former Treasurer told the House of Representatives that earlier this year he had released the Intergenerational Report, which detailed the challenges and opportunities that Australia’s ageing population brought.

“… we need the infrastructure to support the change in demographics,” Hockey said. “Over the last 20 years, mobile phones, coupled with better, more affordable broadband, have been a technology and lifestyle game changer. Over the next 20 years, battery technology, energy efficient technology and driverless cars will be revolutionary.”

“Unless we build the infrastructure now that facilitates the future, rather than languish with infrastructure that impedes the future, we will fail our children.”

“I want to pay tribute—at some risk to my safety in getting out of this building!—to the previous, Labor, government for initiating the National Broadband Network. It was not fully paid for, and the Prime Minister did a great job repairing it, but it was a very significant commitment.”

I’m in two minds about Hockey’s comments here.

On the one hand, obviously the outgoing Member for North Sydney is being tremendously hypocritical. Hockey bashed the NBN on many occasions, fudging the numbers and fudging technical details in order to do so. He has been one of the main MPs on the Coalition side of the fence to regularly criticise the project. It must gall those on the other side of the House of Representatives Chamber to hear him praise the project and Labor for initiating it.

It is particularly appalling for Hockey to praise Turnbull in particular for “repairing” the project, when Abbott reportedly gave Malcolm Turnbull the task of ‘demolishing it’ — a task which many in Australia’s technology sector believe Turnbull did a rather good job of.

However, it is also true that politicians are not always able to say what they really think — sometimes they need to toe the party line. It was Hockey’s job to attack Labor policies of all varieties, and he did that job with respect to the NBN. Your writer suspects that Hockey is actually quite a technological progressive — he was one of the main forces behind the Coalition’s decision to block Labor’s Internet filter, and I’ve seen him mention technology such as tablets and smartphones on several occasions.

Hockey’s also quite young — only 50 — and he has young kids, so it’s not a massive surprise that he would understand modern gadgets.

In this light, I think we can view Hockey as somewhat of a professional by the standards of modern day politics. He certainly did his job attacking the NBN as a Labor project, but was also big enough to admit that the project had merit upon leaving politics. We have to give him some kudos for that.

Video credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting


  1. Joe also talked about the importance of honesty and integrity in politics. How do these guys stop their heads from exploding ?

      • A set of rules which states that lying is perfectly morally and ethically the correct thing to do, as long as you don’t get caught and is what your party wants… right up there with politician entitlements.

  2. “It was Hockey’s job to attack Labor policies of all varieties, and he did that job with respect to the NBN”

    Personally this is the one thing that annoys me about politics, because if that was his job the he should stop being paid by tax revenue and start being paid by the liberal party membership.

    • I totally agree. His job wasn’t to attack Labor policies, it was to represent the best interests of the Australian public. He failed dismally in this. He also did so deliberately and knowingly, as evidenced by his farewell speech.
      His job was to find flaws in Labor policies that would have been detrimental to the Australian public. Instead he wilfully invented flaws.
      I can’t give him any kudos for admitting that he had been actively and knowingly sabotaging Australia all along. I don’t know which is worse – the opposition to Labor’s NBN from ignorant people, or the opposition to Labor’s NBN from people who actually knew better but went ahead and opposed it anyway. Neither position is particularly admirable.

      • Sorry can’t agree with the first part.

        Hockey screamed debt and deficit (as they all did) whilst the debt and deficit have now worsened (deficit has apparently doubled) yet they now deny a D&D crisis and when over seas JH even said we are the pinnacle for others to follow.

        Then, they all cried about the $667B debt that was left to them, which “never even existed” because that was an estimation 10 years into the future if neither side of politics didn’t get it back into line (which both sides said they would).

        Then he/they relentlessly attack the NBN… which JH now pays tribute to…?

        Seriously not attacking the others? That’s not looking for holes or representing any interests, that’s gutter politics and actual lies.

        Thankfully the most disgraceful (Abbott) government I can remember is now gone and I’m already seeing great improvement in Turnbull’s less us/them style.

        As for this statement I agree 100%…

        “I don’t know which is worse – the opposition to Labor’s NBN from ignorant people, or the opposition to Labor’s NBN from people who actually knew better but went ahead and opposed it anyway. Neither position is particularly admirable.”

    • Since the NBN was in someone else’s ministerial responsibility, Joe could have avoided the issue and avoided criticism by his colleagues. But he chose not to.

      Can politicians ever save themselves. And then they expect to get rewarded more generously than the rest pf us.

  3. Allow me to be less than diplomatic (again)

    No, screw Hockey. The NBN (the proper NBN) was a project that could have benefited from bipartisanship, but the coalition clowns butt-hurt after being unable to convince the independents had a massive hissy fit and decided the best way to approach broadband in Australia would be to “demolish” it and then come up with yet another ham-fisted half-arsed approach that we are now witnessing.

    So now Hockey wants to credit Labor for what they did?

    Of course he can comfortably do that now after they’ve transformed NBNco into GimpCo. These words sound great when you’re walking out the door but considering the amount of deceit and misinformation regarding the NBN that he regurgitated I remain unconvinced.

    No kudos for you!

  4. Hockey is, as they say, ensuring he doesn’t burn bridges, on the way out.

    It’s also quite possible for a minister to toe the party line, even if conflicted (though I don’t think that’s something Joe has really ever struggled with, to be fair, he’s pretty transparent).

    The reality is, NBNco is a political football. So it’s hardly surprising he (Hockey) speaks highly of it, when it suits. Such as when one is formally retiring from politics, and one no longer has a (political) job. :)

  5. Its irrelevant what Hockey says. He couldnt get a single budget even half through, and that was you know the one job he had.

    I would argue precisely 0 businesses care what he says, certainly on the nbn / tech front. Any of you hearing startups worried about a new treasurer? Potted plant had more confidence in that regard.

    Hockey might be a nice person, but his never ending narcissism begs to differ. He was an awful treasurer despite his claims about himself, and I am sure he will get fewer cocktail party invs than any ambassador in history.

  6. Lets be fair to Joe, Joe was in the wrong party at the wrong time at the wrong place in the wrong country in the wrong hemisphere on the wrong planet. So he should feel right at home in America. Hasta la vista Big Joe.

  7. I would suggest Hockey’s so-called “Turnbull NBN Repair” is the equivalent of something like spending at least 56 billion trying to patch up & constantly attempt to service a fleet of maintenance & fuel hungry, (power) unreliable, abused & clapped out rust buckets for the next decade.
    Even when He well knows they’re all destined for the scrap yard by the early 2020’s once we’re sick of throwing good money after bad if we’re to have any hope of smoothly merging with modern high speed traffic on the international Super Highway rather than continuing to be confined to the slow or breakdown lanes.
    I wonder just how much of that 56 Billion investment we’ll salvage then from all those redundant nodes, batteries & expensive electronics at the local recycling plants?

  8. He might be keen to stay on their good side. For if Labor ever gets elected, his diplomatic post will be on the line.

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