“$40bn waste”: Coalition kicks off NBN smear campaign


news The Coalition appears to have kicked off a campaign designed to discredit Labor’s management of the National Broadband Network project, with at least one Liberal MP relying on party-supplied material to claim that “$40 billion was wasted” during its early days.

The NBN project was initiated by the Rudd and Gillard Labor Governments from 2007, although the best-known Fibre to the Premises version of the network was not formalised as a concrete project until April 2009.

Since September 2013, the Abbott and Turnbull administrations have substantially shifted the model of the network, moving away from Labor’s FTTP model and incorporating the legacy copper and HFC cable networks owned by Telstra and Optus, in a so-called “Multi-Technology Mix” approach.

This week a resident in the Queensland electorate of Brisbane sent Delimiter a pamphlet which had been distributed in the area by local MP, the Liberal Party’s Teresa Gambara. You can download the pamphlet in JPG format here.

In the pamphlet, Gambaro substantially talked up the Coalition’s performance managing the NBN project, describing the initiative as a “game-changing initiative that will provide the basis for Australia’s economic transition”.

Under Labor, Gambaro stated, “barely 300,000 premises could be connected to the NBN after four and a half years”, and “$40 billion was wasted”.

In comparison, Gambaro said in the pamphlet, the Turnbull Government was currently connecting 15,000 premises per week; the amount of homes connected had just reached 1.7 million, and connections to a further 600 premises were currently being constructed, with a further 1.3 million undergoing design work.

Specifically in her electorate, Gambaro said, 11,726 premises had already been connected as part of what the Liberal MP described as “part of our accelerated rollout”.

The MP added: “A further 50,300 premises will be connected this year via HFC technology; the final 18,000 premises connected in 2017 and 2018.”

“We are committed to ensuring this technology reaches all homes and business in Brisbane faster than under Labor,” Gambaro wrote.

Misleading the public
Some aspects of Gambaro’s letter appear to be accurate. For example, the NBN Strategic Review published in November 2013, shortly after the Coalition took power in Canberra, stated that some 227,483 premises had been passed by the NBN as at 30 September that year.

The NBN is currently undergoing an accelerated deployment schedule, owing to the Coalition’s Fibre to the Node model, which is much faster to deploy than Labor’s previous FTTP approach. The 15,000 premises per week figure apears to be currently accurate, and it is also true that the Brisbane electorate has already had NBN construction in its area.

However, in other areas, the Liberal MP’s statement appears to be inaccurate.

For example, it is inaccurate to say that $40 billion has been wasted by the NBN company under Labor. The NBN company itself has not yet spent the Government’s planned $29.5 billion investment in the project, and the money that has been used so far has been used to deploy critical broadband infrastructure to the around two million premises the NBN company has passed with its network.

In addition, the NBN company has published calculations on a number of occasions stating that it would be likely to make a return on the Government’s investment under any network model — FTTP, FTTN or the MTM mix, meaning that the Government would actually make a profit on the infrastructure.

The private sector has so far proven unwilling to deploy upgraded broadband infrastructure on anywhere near the scale of the NBN.

In another example, the only reason that the Coalition has been able to deploy the NBN so rapidly during its term in power over the past two and a half years is because much of the grounding preparation work for the NBN rollout was done during Labor’s period in office. The NBN company has always stated that it would gradually accelerate its rollout over the years.

In contrast, the Coalition has made relatively little progress during its term with its own favoured technologies (Fibre to the Node and HFC cable), with the vast majority of its NBN success having been achieved under Labor’s model.

In addition, it is not clear that the NBN rollout in Gambaro’s electorate will be finished by 2018, with the NBN company’s rollout map currently showing no construction in most of the area. Delimiter invites comment and analysis from readers to determine to what degree the statement is accurate.

Delimiter invited Gambaro to comment on the information contained in her pamphlet.

In response, a spokesperson for Gambaro said the information used in the mailout was compiled from data provided by both the office of Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and the NBN company.

The approach of distributing misleading information about the NBN, and NBN policies, has become common during Federal elections, with both the Coalition and Labor distributing a range of misleading material during the 2013 Federal Election especially.

This kind of misinformation being distributed during an election campaign is not surprising … typically what happens is that key pieces of information about the NBN are boiled down into election slogans and then distributed from head office to MPs all over Australia. Some misinterpret (sometimes willingly so) the data even further.

However, it is disappointing to see this, and Delimiter will be pointing out errors where we can, as the campaign rolls on.


  1. “Delimiter will be pointing out errors where we can, as the campaign rolls on.”
    More power to you. Perhaps adopting an ABC ‘Fact Check’ approach would be worthwhile?

    Moving on, the Teresa Gambara pamphlet uses cherry picked figures, in the most dubious, superficial, and cynical manner to provide the most tenuous substantiation for ludicrous allegations.
    Unfortunately it appears typical of the LNP Coalition. Hopefully voters are too intelligent to buy it.

    • Unfortunately, the average voter has no clue about the details of the NBN, and is likely to take statements like those on the pamphlet at face value.

      – They don’t know that NBNCo spent years building a backhaul network to allow them to connect any property anywhere in the country to a superfast fibre backbone.
      – They don’t know that 90%+ of the premises connected to date use FTTP, Fixed Wireless, or Satellite – all part of the Labor-originated rollout
      – They don’t know that FTTN & HFC will cost $billions more to run than FTTP
      – They don’t know that FTTN & HFC cannot provide the same level of service as FTTP
      – They don’t know that FTTN & HFC will need to be replaced (probably within a decade) by FTTP, at a cost of 10s of $billions more than deploying FTTP in the first place
      – They don’t know that NBNCo was working on low-cost FTTP deployment that gets close to FTTN in cost
      – They don’t know that Telstra handed over not only the copper network, but also the liability to fix the pits & ducts that they were paid for under the previous contracts
      – They don’t know that thousands of km of copper wiring has to be replaced to get FTTN to work at anything like acceptable speeds

      There’s probably more to add to that list…

      • While the nbn may need upgrading within 5-10 years, it won’t get done for at least 30.

      • I feel like the problem is just compounded by summaries like, “much of the grounding preparation work for the NBN rollout was done during Labor’s period in office”. This kind of vague statement doesn’t address anything exactly that was done. “Much” doesn’t really address the relative proportion, and preparation work was or wasn’t necessary? Did Labor get the backhaul done our was that done by ISPs? Did the satellite work all get done by Labor, or was it mostly accomplished by Libs?

        I think what most people really want to know is why were their houses on the rollout map, Libs promised everyone who would be covered would still be covered, and suddenly all the promises and negotiations went out the window.

    • *typical of politicians. Unfortunately, voters will buy it.

      Corrected a slight error :P

  2. However, it is disappointing to see this, and Delimiter will be pointing out errors where we can, as the campaign rolls on.

    As they say in the chamber of horrors that is the Parliament in Canberra, “Here, Here”!.

    PS – Teresa Gambaro is retiring, she is not contesting this election. Doesn’t stop her distributing the lies.

    • “Hear, hear” (from ‘hear him, hear him!’).

      Tessie is indeed retiring; her replacement is some (politically) pimply faced kid called Trevor Evans; anyone wishing to debate the issue would do well to push their communication his way. it may actually be a sneaky move to have Tessies material on the headpiece as any messaging to her can be discarded, seeing as she is not the one seeking to represent the seat.

      This voter in this exact seat (and on FTTP to boot) intends using the new ballot rules to ensure my votes exhaust before any preferences land in any LNP pocket. i will not reward this shit with my vote; and the whole MTM debacle disgusts me. it may be only my vote but its mine to do with and i have a message expressly for the Coalition in it – get lost.

  3. “It’s all Labor’s fault we blew all the money on Telstra, that we sold off in the first place”

  4. Delivering people recycled ADSL and HFC for billions that they now have run out of money with. Is trash and a waste. They can defame as much as they like. They should be charged as con artist criminals.

    “We’ve delivered you what is already installed and completely inadequate and falls over” IS A SCAM.

  5. The only waste here is the Coalition’s multi technology noodle network and the tripe that comes out of Gambaro’s mouth.

    FTTN is the biggest lemon this country has ever been sold.

  6. The electorate seat of Brisbane is made up of primarily FTTP in the Ascot area, which I believe was work initiated under the former Labor Government. The design work was initiated under the Labor government & completed initially in Mar/Nov 13 & build preparation including Telstra remediation. Due to change in government though, the build contracts were only issued in Feb 14.

    The rest of the work in the Brisbane electorate are High Value Builds. This is due to the high number of TPG deployments that have occurred in the same region as a result of the Liberal policy.

    I’d argue that there is not a substantial amount for the Liberals to brag about in the Brisbane electorate. No FTTN, no HFC, and no major rollouts across Brisbane, Bowen Hills, Newmarket or Ashgrove.

    • Maybe Delimiter should run their own NBN Fact Checker for the rest of the election

      • I’d like to see more journalists like Renai doing fact-checking. It’s not like the MSM will do so… They will more than likely print the same biased, blatantly wrong tripe that the LNP/Coalition is…

      • ABCs fact checker is so bad, it still says that the 25 by 2016 promise is still in progress.

          • Good point! I just noticed that it was updated on 9 May to “broken”. Came here to post an update to my post and saw your interesting response.

            Indeed my main complaint was that ABC didn’t switch it to “stalled” in 2013 (strategic review) or in 2014 (new statement of expectations) when Libs announced that it was no longer to be met. Unless you are only considering broken or met, then ABC’s fact check should not be relied on! And even then, their interpretation of the promise is still questionable so you would really need to read into it.

    • Brisbane is about the largest electorate in the region. There is a decent swathe of HFC across the region I live in which is the Herston, Bowen hills, Newmarket area. I’m not certain of it’s exact boundaries though or where only one lot of cable is (Optus and Telstra cable In my street).

  7. Conservatives blatantly lying and just making shit up, sounds pretty normal to me as they can’t compete with facts as they don’t support most off their b.s.

    If they LibTroll’s hadn’t killed the real NBN we’d have more than 3 million premises passed by now!

  8. “Faster rollout”

    True, I even graphed it.

    “economic transition”

    Sure; porn, gaming, 8k video counts as economic transition.

    “15,000 premises a week”

    Actually on the low side.

    “Premises connected passed 1.7m”

    almost “passed” 2m serviceable. Less than 1/2 “connected”.

    “under Labor less than 300k could be connected after 4.5 years”

    Actually high. A third of the premises deemed RFS under Labor were left indefinitely at service class zero. In some places 60% could actually order a service.

    “under Libs 1.7m connected”

    False, passed.

    “Under labor $40b wasted”

    $6b was wasted, another $13.8b committed to retiring infrastructure (ie water). $2b for satellite committed without investigating alternatives.

    • Ohh Richard spare us from the shit you post as usual… Those same alternative sattelites that don’t exist, or the ones from the company that went bankrupt? Those same sattelites that the Coalition are now claiming credit for and stating they are groundbreaking and will change the way people live and work?

    • “$2b for satellite committed without investigating alternatives.”

      Don’t keep us all in suspense. What was the alternative?

    • Why bother going through individual points instead of making a coherent argument? If it was me, and I realised everyone was tuning me out because I went off on too many tangents, I’d feel bad, man.

      • It’s called a “Gish Gallop”, and it’s a rhetorical debating tactic, where you bombard your audience with so many questionable statements that nobody has time to verify and rebut them all.

        Very commonly used by climate change deniers, tobacco supporters, anti-vaxers, and the like.

        Tends to fall apart when the audience knows enough about the topic to quickly realise you’re speaking out a different orifice…

        • Ah, thanks for the definition. I’ve been aware of the tactic, having seen it practiced so many times on Whirlpool and it’s nice to put a name to it.

        • + 1

          Richard loves his “on the spot fallacies”, too.

          I kid you not, he once derided me over a small series of comments on ZD years ago for misquoting the name of one of his qualifications he had previously claimed he had.

          • Ooh and don’t forget the Brisbane line, he strangely, continually over many years, derides HC about for no reason.

            Like WTF?

          • Indeed Rizz. It’s hilarious to see just how desperate he has become since he was banned from Zdnet though. He cant fault me on anything I’ve said so he has to misrepresent positions based on what he imagined I said. Expect more of the same.

      • “Delimiter invites comment and analysis from readers to determine to what degree the statement is accurate.”

        Invitation accepted. However a correction:

        “In some places 60% couldn’t actually order a service.”

        “In addition, the NBN company has published calculations on a number of occasions stating that it would be likely to make a return on the Government’s investment under any network model — FTTP, FTTN or the MTM mix, meaning that the Government would actually make a profit on the infrastructure.”

        Actually NBNCo nor political parties have published any such calculation, they’ve simply claimed a positive return. Renai recently linked to an article (I’d previously supplied) clearly refuting the costs don’t matter position (IRR obviously directly tied to both costs and revenue). Actual calculations shortly, if not beaten by others’ analysis of available data; rofl;-).

        • Funny Richard, how you never factor the $29.5B fully costed plan (let’s call it the Dick plan) which has now blown out anywhere from $45B to $70B depending upon which “adult” you believe (wow they are good eh, only $25B discrepancy)… which was promised to all Aussies by 2016, but is now touted as 2020 (if we can believe that)…

          But after ignoring these actuals, you then have the audacity to suggest this farce MTM Dick plan… is going well..

          WTF are you on dude?

          Because frankly I want some of this anti-reality elixir :)

          You’re welcome.

          • which was promised to all Aussies by 2016

            233 days to go Rizz :-)

            WTF are you on dude?

            Good question.

          • Did you notice HC, that even after a prod, Richard nonetheless, still/again completely ignored the “Dick plan blow outs”, as if they don’t exist?

            Welcome to the 1950’s safety bubble, where it seems obvious, cyclopic, ultra-conservative, flat earth, L(l)ibertarian, narcissists cosily dwell.

          • tbh I’m not sure what you were expecting Rizz. Queen of copper squealers is notorious for ignoring the hard ones.

          • Indeed TM and seeing Richard’s first effort (MTM creator extraordinaire) he wonders why we scoff, nay guffaw, at everything he says…

          • Let’s not worry about returns (if any) from this MTM debacle just yet Richard, let’s worry about what’s happening now…

            In case you missed them from above A G A I N (also referencing how you never mention, ignore, pretend non-existence of) I’ll repeat the MTM facts just for you, in bold (that’s these darker letters, you’re welcome) this time, just to help you out….

            Because curiously, I can’t recall you ever mentioning the possibility of such disastrous blowouts in cost/time, many moons ago, when you were beating the chest (surprise surprise) about the faster/cheaper, MTM plan, that…

            “you stated you could have been commissioned to write”

            “$29.5B fully costed plan (MTM/Dick plan) which has now blown out anywhere from $45B to $70B depending upon which ‘adult’ you believe… which was promised to all Aussies by 2016, but is now touted as 2020 (and counting)…”

            Did you write these blowouts too Richard? I guess you must have if this plan was as if you could have written it… eh?

            Oh dear, how utterly embarrassing, nay, humiliating for that H U G E ego.

            You’re welcome A G A I N…

    • “economic transition”

      Sure; porn, gaming, 8k video counts as economic transition.


      So what economic transition does MTM enable?

      Also, why do you only pick those three examples for economic transition? Do you think they’re the only applications for 100mb+ internet? If so then you deserve to be relentlessly ridiculed.

      PS. You could have chosen cloud computing, cloud file serving, multi-party video conferencing and collaboration, business intelligence as a service, enablement of work anywhere policy, swappable offices, smart homes, smart cities, smart grids, always-on cloud based HD security systems. I’m pretty sure these are transformative.

    • Richard

      Did you honestly just fall back on the old “Porn Gaming and Movies” argument. My goodness, you must be getting desperate.

      Curiously tho, all of those industries you point out are in fact multi-billion dollar industries. Of them, gaming is an industry that Australia should really be pursuing. With high levels of education, and small headcounts, the gaming industry has a world wide potential at a low base cost.

      Also how many of those financial/economic trending groups say that the internet is basically the most important trade tool today?

      Nice fallacy.

      • Woolfe you have to give him credit he is going of personal experience as porn is mostly what he uses the Internet for

    • Err… Richard we were promised a FTTN based MTM would be both substantially cheaper and substantially faster. This was the trade off for being substantially “inferior”.

      So your point is? What it’s a bit faster and a bit cheaper, going by your (cherry-picked) data?

      I’d suggest that as usual, completely sans foresight, you lot are again missing the point completely…

      The problem is MTM isn’t proving to be that much, if any faster (even your tag team buddy told us a few days ago, the ready to roll out MTM plan took two years of nothingness, before it actually kicked off). That’s two years we could have been progressing with the previous plan, regardless of whether you supported it or not. Plus we were also promised that MTM was fully costed at $29.5B and it’s now anywhere from $45B- $70B depending upon which “adult” you believe…

      So seriously…

      At what point will you concede that, even if you don’t agree FTTP is the end goal, the trade off of copper obsolescence (according to me and of course, the likes of Steve Forbes/Libertarian/Republican – your sort of person) is no longer worth the small difference?

      I’d suggest people such as yourself, have dug the “hole of obsolesce” so fucking deep, you can no longer escape and are now so thin-skinned in relation to such a question that you DGAF if this disastrous, blown out, retrograde MTM is only $1 cheaper and 1 minute faster to roll out, because that’s all the ego needs to chest beat and claim some sort of warped, hollow victory… as you already appear to be doing.

      Ridiculous, coming from someone who is a self proclaimed, educated/intelligent man.

      You’re welcome.

      • Rizz
        You for got affordable as Turnbull was going to a certain charge even less down to $16

      • Given that the vast majority of premises currently serviced by the NBN are all remnants of the previous Labor plan, and not at all the LNP MTM model yet they keep claiming those numbers as if “they” did it.

        It is evidence of the ramp up that the network was never able to achieve under Labor because of delays with Telstra negotiations and because of having to build the backhaul network and all of the PoI’s around the country.

        I’d love to see where the LNP would have been had the backhaul and PoIs hadn’t already been constructed for them to walk into then claim all this “progress” that isn’t their own.

        Oh.. right… they wouldn’t, because infrastructure isn’t something the Liberals build… unless its roads… roads are the future, like coal.

    • “Sure; porn, gaming, 8k video counts as economic transition.”
      All of those things are also delivered by roads. Obviously, roads were a shit infrastructure project, too.

  9. Er, The LNP winning the 2013 Federal election is the only reason the entire South Brisbane Fibre area has not gotten NBN yet. It was due to a year or two ago, but got struck off the roll out map shortly after the election.

  10. After putting up with LNP’s bullshit for the past few years, I don’t believe a damn word they say.

  11. I so reckon both major parties stuffed up, from offloading Aussat in 1991, privatising a vertically integrated Telecom/ OTC from 1997 (without insisting on HFC or copper/ fibre plus wireless), to a no to Telstra FTTN of 2005, to cancellation of Opel Networks in 2008, and Ruddstra (be it nbn MTM mk3 of 2013, NBN mk2 of 2009, NBN mk 1 of 2007) from 2007.
    In summary, the LyingN(C)P figured out the why and what (Mbps and GB), Liebor just the what (Gbps and TB) and ho[w]e, … Oops.
    As IA noted, in the meantime Australia has slipped to 60th position worldwide on wired broadband.
    Even nbn has been out with data saying 2M premises were passed over three electoral terms, unsure how many are still service class zero, and about half that activated (or less than are on HFC according to the ABS) …
    Which is why we need Infra Aus, ACCC and not just gov departments and the fed gov across key initiatives.

    • Ho[w]e/ how.

      … and I am pleased SingTel Optus/ Vividwireless has a 50 GB offering out there, TPG W FTTx/ VDSL2 ($20 to $30 per month cheaper for an unlimited bundle) is up in more and more multi-user dwellings, besides Telstra Air Wi-Fi.
      Can’t wait to see what Inmarsat/ OneWeb/ O3B/ Winds of Japan do next either.

  12. Just a note, the LPA’s website page https://www.liberal.org.au/fast-affordable-sooner-coalitions-plan-better-nbn currently returns the following:

    The page you have requested is unavailable.

    Please start again by going to the home page.
    Or, why not visit these popular pages:
    About the Party
    Latest news
    Make a contribution

    Luckily the internet archive exists:

    Pretty clear cut regarding their view of the NBN up until 5 April, 2016:
    – Download speeds of between 25 and 100 megabits per second by the end of 2016 and 50 to 100 megabits per second by 2019.
    – The rollout of the NBN under the Coalition will be complete by the end of 2019.
    – Our plan will cost $29.5 billion. This will ensure the NBN is cash flow positive and can operate without assistance from government.

    So if we’re going to critique the FTTP model for not remaining within original scope and budget, may as well maintain consistency about LNP & Turnbull’s MTM NBN stop-gap offering.

    • Re: “their view of the NBN up until 5 April, 2016” …. I think the plan is to widen the ‘hole of obsolescence’ ™ and encompass the whole economy, thereby making those targets appear easily achievable rather than the rambling lofty ideals spawned from a conservative clown convention, that they actually are.

    • Oh, but you forget, the LibTrolls that live under the bridges here in Delimiterville, all claim that the targets have just been “revised” so, the target of 25Mbit to all by 2016 doesn’t matter, despite the fact they shouted from the rooftops when NBN Co revised any targets under Labor.

      They’re hypocritical douchebags.

  13. Dear Liberals,
    If you have any qualified Communications Engineers amongst your politicions than please ask them the following: What is the attenuation/bandwith in copper and fibre optics?
    At the moment our NBN will have to need to replace the copper disaster soon.

    • Even the Liberals, the criminally paid-for SR, Morrow etc etc all agree that FTTP is the end goal and that it will be needed 5-10 years after completion – ie 2026 at the latest.

      Given the Liberals said the original plan would finish in 2024 and they’ve just wasted 3 years… we need to have started yesteryear.

  14. ““$40bn waste”: Coalition kicks off NBN smear campaign”
    That’s cute, considering Labor was documented to only have spent $6b during the 2-3 years they were running NBN Co, and the Liberals are documented to have blown out their plan by up to $40b. Are they trying to claim that the $46b Labor rollout ~tried~ to spend another $40b on top of their first 3 year expenditure, or are they just trying to pass off their own failings as someone elses problem? Again?

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