NBN Co, Telstra help Greg Hunt out with election campaign event


news The NBN company join Telstra at an election campaign event to be held by Environment Minister Greg Hunt in his electorate of Flinders in late March, Delimiter can reveal, in a move that further calls into question the NBN company’s independence in the pre-election period.

On Wednesday 23 March this year, Hunt will hold a “community forum” in the town of Rosebud in his electorate of Flinders in Victoria. The event will be held at the Seawinds Community Hub in Rosebud West.

Hunt has distributed a brochure to residents in the area (see above) which states that he is working with the Rosebud community on a range of local issues, including fighting for a pedestrian crossing, working for an upgrade to the Rosebud Hospital, and “securing high-speed broadband and mobile phone coverage for Rosebud families, seniors and businesses.”

The invite brochure explicitly features the logos of both Telstra and the NBN company.

“Representatives from NBN and Telstra Country Wide will be on hand to answer questions about the roll-out of the NBN network and mobile phone coverage respectively,” Hunt’s brochure notes.

Martin Dixon, the Liberal Member for the Victorian seat of Nepean, has also issued an email broadcast alerting people in the area to the event.

“Further to my business forum a couple of weeks ago, I would like to alert you to a community consultation being conducted by Telstra and NBN Co in conjunction with Greg Hunt’s office on the 23 March at 7pm as per the attached,” he wrote.

“One of the key issues raised at the forum was the sub-standard Internet service we still have on the Peninsula. While I was keen to conduct a separate round table discussion on this topic, I felt that this would be an unnecessary double-up on your time, and with the right people in the room, you may well find this forum appropriate.”

Dixon also distributed a separate document produced by the NBN company which outlines the NBN coverage in the area, as well as planned future coverage. You can download the document in PDF format here.

There are appear to be variances between the planned future coverage dates outlines in the document distributed by the Liberal MPs, compared with the NBN company’s public three year plan.

For example, as has been discussed on Whirlpool, the area of Blairgowrie starts construction in Q4 2016 according to the three year plan, yet is slated as ‘currently under construction’, forecast to go live in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to the documents supplied by the Liberal MPs.

In contrast, the area of Dromana starts construction in Q2 2016 according to the three year plan, yet is forecast to commence work in the second second quarter of 2017 according to the Liberal MPs’ documents.

This raises the possibility that the NBN company is supplying information to sitting Liberal MPs that is not publicly available.

The news comes as the NBN company has also been supporting other Coalition MPs during the pre-election period.

Last week, for example, the NBN company included a quote from Nationals MP John Cobb in its media release announcing the official start of construction on nearly 18,000 premises in the area of Orange. Cobb is the Member for Calare, which includes a number of regional NSW centres, including Orange.

The NBN company also sent representatives to an event in Woy Woy at which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and local Liberal Member for Robertson, Lucy Wicks, spruiked the success of the Coalition’s preferred Fibre to the Node rollout model in the region.

The NBN company is not technically part of the public service, being a Government Business Enterprise instead. However, the company is still required to hold to the Caretaker Conventions, the key public sector standard which guides the behaviour of the public service during an election period.

The Conventions stipulate that agencies should take a number of steps to avoid advantaging any one side of politics during an election period, such as distributing material which promotes the Government’s policies or using their resources to support any one side. Public servants are also directed to decline invitations to speak at events that may be interpreted as political.

“Officials should avoid publicly explaining or promoting policies during the caretaker period,” the Caretaker Conventions state.

The Caretaker Conventions do not technically apply yet, because the Prime Minister has not yet announced the date of the upcoming Federal Election.

However, all major political parties have started campaigning for the election regardless.


  1. Of course, not against the rules yet, but this is certainly ‘stretching the friendship’, and will be very interesting to watch at such time as the election is called, and the caretaker provisions begin to apply.

      • They haven’t given a shit about hiding their allegiances since Abbott won, and Aussies haven’t given a shit about said allegiances. This is all just standard practice, now.

    • Not against the rules “yet” = Not against the rules. Or are we doing 1984/Minority Report thought crime now? \= D

      And didn’t we just recently see a story where outrage erupted (well, kinda simmered gently) because the ABC/Barrie Cassidy didn’t put the NBN questions to the gov?

      Now there is a chance for the public to put the question to a pollie or the company reps, and it’s a bad thing?

      Dunno, would you prefer to have reps onsite to face questions or not? Likely any serious questions will be fobbed off, but at least they can be asked to reps. Pretty hard to do that if they aren’t even allowed to attend.

      Side note, I think the NBNco is in a difficult circumstance being attacked for promoting a political policy. Their current deployment model is policy, their previous deployment model was policy. They can’t really go on a complete hiatus of talking about BAU, which would leave them in contravention. If they clam up, they get accused of a coverup.

      • Dunno, would you prefer to have reps onsite to face questions or not?

        Sure, just not at a political event (Labor or Liberal). And there’s nothing stopping them from fronting up on their own to explain themselves/things either, a lot of other companies do it.

      • Clearly nbn can’t have it both ways. In parliamentary testimony, or in response to FOI requests, it seems to hide behind “commercial in confidence”.

        Did nbn provide this data to a select distribution list, or did it come from the comms minister’s office, finance minister’s office (given how both are shareholder ministers, and all)?

      • I think it’s a sensationalist headline based on opinion and not facts. People are already upset enough as it is. We don’t need to go around pouring more fuel on the fire. Present the facts and lets us come to our own conclusions.

        • Bruce since this is an election year can you point out in the last 2 years of the NBN doing something like this

          • NBN held community forums in my area last year for the areas about to be switched onto wireless. Our federal Labor member and local Labor councillors promoted and attended the events.

            I can’t imagine Labor members would turn up for copper magic areas but they have been out with NBN Co for wireless, FTTP, and satellite events. It’s what politicians do, like flies to shit.

          • Actually in the history of the NBN I don’t believe its done anything like this latest round of election propo’s!

            Sure Quigley had a mildly inflammatory and ‘well-timed’ speech about Gb services but seriously you think its appropriate for the GBE to be expending personnel man hours in a way like this??

          • Bruce so it was an NBN held events where members have supported and turned up to.

            Where this appears to be a party held event where the NBN has turned up to.

        • “Present the facts and lets us come to our own conclusions.”

          I think you’re confusing “the facts” with “something I agree with”.

          • I’m not confusing anything. You’re title,

            “NBN Co, Telstra help Greg Hunt out with election campaign event”

            is opinion. The election hasn’t been called. We’re not in an election campaign period. Fact would have been,

            “NBN Co, Telstra help Greg Hunt out with community forum”

            It’s possible to be critical without claiming opinion as fact. Certainly I think it is wrong for a politician to be using corporate branding on information they distribute. But that is opinion and not fact and to pass it off as such would be wrong IMO.

          • I think you’re about the only person in Australia that doesn’t think we’ll be having an election within three month Bruce ;o)

          • @Tinman_au

            Actually I think the election will be in 4 months time. ;)

            But as of right now it’s all hearsay. And that’s my point. The election hasn’t been called. We can’t pass off as fact that a community forum is an election campaign event. You might think it, I might think it, Renai might think it, but it’s still just conjecture and should be identified as such. It isn’t news as the title says. It is opinion. And it might not be far off the mark. But it is still opinion.

          • So a PM flying around doing doorstops promoting what (little) the government has achieved in the last couple of years is an appropriate way for him to spend time…and has nothing to do with an upcoming election…Bruce you would have to be one of a very select few that can’t see that this, and the nbn promos, and Chris Pyne running ads on Adelaide radio about the defence tech centre, is electioneering.

        • Bruce, it’s up to you to disbelieve the facts. But tell a blog with strong opinion focus to “present the facts and…”? That’s a sensationalist comment if I ever saw one. Go back to reading the Australian if you want the fair coverage that you expect.

          • That’s my point. The title “NBN Co, Telstra help Greg Hunt out with election campaign event” is exactly the type of opinion passed off as fat that would appear in the Australian. The election hasn’t been called. It isn’t a campaign event.

            Their is plenty to pick at without bending the truth. No need to stoop to the levels of Murdoch and Fairfax.

          • Politicians campaign ALL of the time. Wise people have said that “politicians are in power, only to stay in power”. Every little bit of “campaigning” they can do – (inside and outside of an election cycle) – is what they will do. If they can get help doing it, they’ll take that help.

            Frankly, it’s bulldust if you use the “election hasn’t been called yet” argument. The election is clearly coming, they know the date – even if they tell you that they haven’t decided. The decks are being cleared.

            Sitting members who don’t wish to go on are announcing such. Talk of preference deals are in the press daily. The government is trying to rush through legislation to change the way the Senate is elected.

            The campaign is underway, albeit unofficially. It is naive to believe otherwise. The posturing has been underway for weeks.

          • Yup, when mobs like the Australian or the politicians use sophistry, assumptions, dressing up opinions as facts, it’s a “bad thing”.

            When people you agree with do it, it’s fine… /eyeroll

        • The logos are on the flyer, what more facts do you need? Doesn’t matter which side of the fence you sit, these companies should be disinterested parties, but aren’t.

          On the flipside, if Greg Hunt thinks Telstra and NBNCo are important enough to get them on the campaign trail, why isn’t the mainstream media paying more attention to the recent NBN shenanigans? It’s obviously of the public interest.

          • MSM media already spent a lot of effort getting the current lot in and don’t want a change is my guess.

          • I think it is wrong that corporate branding is being pushed by a politician. But to state this is an election campaign event as fact is also wrong. It’s a community forum. Plenty to pick at without passing off opinion as fact.

  2. It’s okay, I’m sure NBN will help Tony Windsor and his FTTP push in his electorate…
    and Then they’ll help Jason Clare push FTTP in his events…

    • To be fair, his electorate has significant areas of FTTP already, given Armidale was one of the original locations in the trial phase. Windsor, unlike a lot of politicians, has a wider view of the nation’s interests beyond electorate boundaries.

      As for Clare, really hoping he doesn’t keep the Communications role – (in government or opposition) – he’s not exactly been what you might call “effective”.

  3. When is the last time that a public service utility was involved with politicians? I mean, I can’t remember the last time that Western Power (our power generation utility in WA) did any joint pressers with politicians. Why does nbn(tm) feel it’s necessary to attend political promotion events in an official representation capacity?

  4. We flagged NBN plans ending up in Liberal hands over 15 months ago, when Sarah Henderson MP for Corangamite published construction dates that were not available at all to the public. NBN, Department of Comms and Ministers Office all denied knowledge of it on FOI and Senate Estimates, yet here we are again.

    Original link: http://sarahhenderson.com.au/2014/12/02/nbn-planning-in-corangamite/

    It’s also interesting to note that all NBN media events that I can recently recall have been exclusively in Liberal held locations, despite builds nationally.

    • Sarah Henderson is my local member – (also?) – and I wouldn’t trust anything she says. She’s said a lot of things about a lot of topics that have been either ill-informed, not correct, or out-and-out fabrications for political point scoring purposes.

      I remember that she was asked about her statement for rollout plans/dates in Geelong-proper which proved to be inaccurate, and she changed the subject to highlight the NBN wireless areas being slowly brought online in rural areas NEAR Geelong, completely wiping her hands of her previous statements.

      She’s not been a good member so far – and not many people I’ve spoken to locally think much of her either. She holds the seat by 3.9%, and I suspect she’s vulnerable.

  5. I’m more concerned about a company awarded additional multi billions dollar contract as a result on the LNP policy supporting electioneering. The same company who had significant shareholder(conflict of interest much) appointed by the LNP government awarded them those contracts. If the MTM had turned out cheaper and delivered quicker instead of the mess it has become I could understand but right now it looks like a bunch of brides and jobs for mates, that is costing us not only billions of dollars but billions in future growth and industry.

  6. Again Mike Quigley was accused of being political for announcing plans for the introduction 1Gbps NBN plans (iirc), prior to the 2013 election.

    But I’m guessing however, this latest get together will be excused by the same people here and even the PM MQ’s most vocal critic) who criticised MQ for doing his job, not promoting politics and politicians.

      • I think it was a harsh call, Renai. The existence of 1gbps services on the fibre network at that point meant a great deal to the business and financial case of the NBNCo company. With 1gbps services being unavailable to 70% of the population, the revenue profile changes significantly and the project becomes less able to support itself.

        Political or not, Quigley was doing his job as a CEO and his objection to the removal of that revenue ability from the model is testament to the quality of his executive tenure.

        • Gotta be sensitive to timing though. Even if it wasn’t political, the appearance of being political is also political. Naïve, agreed.

        • Yup, exactly what I described earlier. He was “just doing his job” (just as NBNco would be “just doing their job” promoting the current build type which is also a political policy).

          Naive for one, outrage for another. At least Renai is consistent but you guys flop around worse than the bloody pollies…

      • I think if he could do over that would be one statement he’d have read at another time even though it was borderline.

      • I’d agree with naive…

        As I would agree with the term calculated, in relation to the current scenario…

  7. I live in the Flinders Electorate, I would be interested to know why Mr Hunts suburb has already got FTTP which was never on the roll out map until after last election and why he thinks the rest of his electorate can have FTTN.

  8. If the NBN folk turned up and told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, we wouldn’t mind.

  9. Yeah..we had one of those NBN./Telstra “Community Forums” in this local “Fully signed up to the LNP. council” area…nothing more that a NBN. second coming sometime to your area spiel accompanied by a Telstra product sales pitch…in effect nothing till AFTER 2020. “but we can sign you up to ADSL2 in the small towns and drop you onto a Telstra mobile broadband plan in the isolated areas to help NBN. out of it’s incapacity to supply fixed wireless to too many low-usage areas….never mind the mobile service is non-existent in some areas because , according to the Telstra “Expert” ..: “Those limestone walls of those old homesteads are so thick it is hard to punch the service through”…be f#cked!..the Pope in Rome has been getting daily messages from God for the last thousand years on his “Royal Telephone” and THOSE Vatican walls must be at least ten feet thick!
    You don’t need to be from Armidale to know the smell of bullshit!

    • That’s Telstra getting people on contracts so they can’t switch provider for NBN, without penalty.
      It’s like a combined marketing exercise of LNP, Telstra and NBN.

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