Fact check: Pyne misleads Q&A audience on key NBN facts


news Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Christopher Pyne appears to have inadvertently misled the ABC’s Q&A program about key facts regarding the National Broadband Network project, repeating a set of common misconceptions about the initiative on air last night.

On the ABC’s Q&A program last night (we recommend you click here for the full show), an audience member asked the following question: “Last week’s AFP raids have once again brought the NBN delays to the forefront, so given the current delays in the NBN roll out, the money paid to Telstra and the less desirable technical outcome of the hybrid copper solution, does the government regret the political decision it’s made not to persist with the original fibre to the premises roll-out?”

In response to the question of whether the Government regretted switching the NBN model, Pyne firstly responded: “Absolutely not”.

The Minister followed up with a number of statements about the NBN project.

Pyne stated that if Labor was in power, the NBN would take four years longer to be delivered, that the previous Labor Government had missed its targets for deploying the NBN by 83 percent, that it had “no idea how much it was costing”, and that Australians “simply didn’t need the speeds” that the previous Labor Fibre to the Premises model for the NBN would deliver.

“It was costing an absolute bomb,” said Pyne.

With regard to the Coalition’s Multi-Technology Mix model for the NBN, Pyne said: “This will cost $30 billion less, but it will be cheaper to consumers; it’ll be cheaper to the taxpayer; it’ll be delivered faster to the Australian consumer and at speeds that they want and need.”

However, there is clear evidence showing that a number of Pyne’s statements are inaccurate or strongly contested.

Labor’s original FTTP version of the NBN was slated to be delivered by 2021, not 2024 as Pyne claimed. Shortly after taking office, the Coalition conducted a Strategic Review into the NBN (PDF) which found that a reworked vision of Labor’s approach could be delivered by 2023.

Since that time — as founding NBN chief executive Mike Quigley said it would — the NBN company has also developed methods of radically speeding up its rollout of FTTP infrastructure. This is a phenomenon also seen in New Zealand, where the company’s major wholesale telco Chorus is also deploying FTTP.

This phenomenon is known as a ‘ramp-up’ and explains why it took the NBN company several years to get up to speed in deploying its network under Labor; a vast amount of initial planning needed to be done before it could commence its rollout.

In comparison, the NBN company has made relatively little progress in deploying the rival technologies — Fibre to the Node and HFC cable — which the Coalition has imposed on the project.

Contrary to Pyne’s comments, the NBN company and Labor had detailed financial projections for the original FTTP version of the NBN.

And Pyne’s cost comments are also inaccurate.

Almost all of the NBN company’s projections over time have shown that all versions of the NBN — Labor’s and the Coalition’s — would not, in fact, cost the Government anything, because each version would actually make a return on the Government’s investment of up to seven percent.

This means that the NBN project as a whole would be profitable — ensuring the Government’s original investment in the project would be returned, with interest.

That projected return on investment figure has actually sunk under the Coalition, because of less revenues achieved using the Coalition’s Fibre to the Node and HFC cable technologies than Labor’s original fibre vision, as well as higher than expected costs associated with this legacy infrastructure.

Retail costs to consumers in terms of actual NBN plans also currently appear to be the same under both models — Labor and the Coalition — with ISPs charging the same price for customers to access FTTN or FTTP services, despite the substantial differences between these technologies.

Pyne’s comments regarding NBN speeds are also highly contested.

The Coalition and the NBN company itself (during the time that it has been under Coalition managment) have repeatedly stated that Australians did not want or need the gigabit speeds which FTTP can deliver, citing as evidence the fact that most NBN customers so far have taken up only slower speeds such as 12Mbps and 25Mbps.

However, technology figures such as Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes — one of Australia’s most successful technology entrepreneurs — and others have stated in public that gigabit speeds are essential for the nation’s long-term development. In addition, internationally telcos such as AT&T, Google, Verizon and more are talking up the need for such speeds.

Locally, the slow take-up of high-end NBN services has been linked to the company’s pricing structure, with figures such as Stephen Baxter — celebrated entrepreneur and co-founder of fibre telco PIPE Networks — stating their disbelief that the NBN company charged customers more for accessing higher speeds, rather than incentivising them to use the full capacity of the NBN network.

In short, many experts believe Australians would take up the higher NBN speeds in much greater numbers if the NBN company reworked its much-criticised wholesale pricing model.

On last night’s Q&A episode, the NBN discussion provoked laughter from the audience at several points — for example, after Pyne stated that there had not been a delay of in the NBN rollout under the Coalition, and again when Pyne stated that the Coalition’s NBN would deliver speeds that would allow Australians to “watch five full-length movies in the same household at the same time”.

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Anthony Albanese, told the Q&A audience that the NBN, “of course, isn’t about movies — it’s about the economy”.

Albanese said the “fraudband” deployed by the Coalition was “double the cost” of what Malcolm Turnbull had promised it would be, and wasn’t delivering the promised speeds.

“I was the [Communications] Minister before the Election,” said Albanese. “He promised that in 2016, everyone in Tasmania would have the NBN in their home. If you’re watching this in Tasmania, next time your little device is buffering, blame Malcolm Turnbull.”

Albanese slammed the Coalition for having to purchase 1,800km of brand new copper to make its version of the NBN work, describing the cables as “19th century stuff”, and attacked the Government for the Australian Federal Police raids last week on Labor offices to track down NBN whistleblowers.

“This is information that every Australian has a right to know,” said Albanese. “It’s a disaster. That’s why you’re having to raid people.”

Image credit: ABC’s Q&A program, believed to be OK to use under fair dealing


  1. Reinforces the view that the Coalitions NBN/MTM has always been a “bit of a lie”. Poor fella Australia!

  2. inadvertently misled

    Really Renai, Really?

    Seems bloody unlikely to me, Pyne like all LNP pollies is a blatant and serial liar!!!

    • From some of his comments — eg the ‘movies’ line, it appeared clear to me that Minister Pyne did not fully understand everything that he was talking about.

      • Sure thing, it’s clear he has no idea what he’s talking about about but he willfully parrots the Liberal / Murdoch NBN propaganda and clearly makes no effort to educate himself as minister for innovation.

        imo that renders the description of “inadvertently misled” inaccurate.

      • Ignorance should not be an excuse for a 50 billion dollar expenditure.

        But both sides of the aisle are to blame here.

        (Doesn’t sound like albanese was informed enough to call out Pyne on his mistakes)

        • Unfortunately Albo isnt very Technically literate, Clare or Husic would have been a much better choice to counter NBN propaganda.

      • Wait, you mean the “Minister for [all that sciency stuff]” doesn’t understand how the underlying technology that enables all of his portfolio to operate, actually works?!

        Shocking. Just shocking.

      • Yes, we know… it was in the heat of the debate and it wasn’t in writing. Politicians give politicians a bad name. And then insist on the maintenance of their perks. Like tax free allowances but the expenses incurred in providing the service the reason for the allowance (accommodation) is still tax deductible. Go figure.

        Presumably this applies to their state colleagues too who are keeping silent on this (off topic) issue.

  3. Malcolm said we would all have speeds of 25 Mbps to 100 Mbps by the end of 2016 – http://lpa.webcontent.s3.amazonaws.com/NBN/The%20Coalition%E2%80%99s%20Plan%20for%20Fast%20Broadband%20and%20an%20Affordable%20NBN.pdf

    He lied. Therefore the Coalition’s project is not on target, and Mr Pyne is also lying.

    The Coalition’s MTM mix of technologies has around 60,000 users after 2.5 YEARS, compared to nearly a million on FTTP which was instigated by Labor.

    The MTM is also costing us a bomb in operational costs, including new copper, maintenance and re-mediation. Not to mention electricity costs of powering the nodes. And in return, we still get a substandard third rate internet service that is unreliable, drops out and doesn’t deliver anywhere near the speeds of FTTP.

    • Malcolm said we would all have speeds of 25 Mbps to 100 Mbps by the end of 2016

      220 days to go. Anything is possible. Please give them a chance before assuming the worst ;-)

          • If they don’t win the election it’ll be Labors fault it wasn’t finished by 2016!

          • HC
            If labor gets in and does hit the 2016 they can take the credit for it like the coalition takeing the credit of the FTTP rollout

          • It is physically impossible for the NBN to be delivering those sort of speeds by the end of 2016 to everyone connected.
            Hell, they can’t even deliver on connection rates and take up targets.

            Basically, anything that the Liberals dribble out about the NBN is anything but the truth. How many times do targets have to be missed before they have successfully discredited themselves to the majority? It’ll be after 2020 before the network has been built then there’ll have to be upgrades as it is already lagging behind the rest of the world in performance. It is mind-blowingly stupid to think that this version of a national network will live up to the requirements of the population (either now or in the future but possibly 5 years ago)

  4. If I was Albanese I would have gotten my phone out and YouTube Turnbull 2013 election policy from the Foxtel studio.

    • You’re assuming several things. First, that Albanese has a smartphone capable of doing that. Fair assumption in this day and age. Secondly, he knows how to use it. Less certain. Third, he could find that policy. Tougher, Abbott (not Turnbull) had a LOT of soundbites during that campaign.

      Fourthly, he’d know how to share it. And fifthly, he’d do it in a timely manner before the discussion moved on to some other subject. Can toss in the bonus question of whether the producers would let it get that far.

  5. Surely the thing to look at is who has got the least. About an hour ago Perth radio fielded listener questions on the NBN. A guy phoned up and said that he has not got any internet service whatsoever for the last 3 years. He is told every time that there are no ports in the exchange and SOL.

    What the hell has the MTM done for him? He’s also told by Telstra that there are no plans at all to ever bring internet to his area [near Kwinanna though I don’t know anything about WA].

    • Mate I’m in the same boat. No fixed line internet for nearly 3 years. But don’t cancel your phone line, your in a queue for the next available port!

  6. The Coalition’s fixation on describing the NBN purely on terms of an entertainment service is easily explained: look at where they launched their MTM policy (Fox Studios). Look at who benefits most from the decision to retain HFC (Foxtel). Look at who would suffer most with a full FttP network (Foxtel, due to competition from IPTV services like Netflix et al).

    Of course, the economic benefits of truly ubiquitous high speed connectivity extend far beyond watching movies, but that fact still doesn’t seem to have penetrated the News Ltd driven shield around the Coalition’s worldview.

    • That’s fairly telling as to where the LNP is getting its information fed from. The strange part about it is that the ALP seem quite impotent in terms of bringing up the wealth of other advantages that higher speeds offer.

      – Health / Hospitals
      – Schools / Education
      – Business Communication
      – Automated offsite backups (!)
      – Working from home (VPN)
      – Video conferencing (that’s actually worthwhile)
      – Cloud computing (storage in the cloud even for working with large files)
      – More information / experience rich community portals
      – More information / experience rich anything
      – Greater differentiation between Australian content than overseas (I’m assuming the large difference between intra-national and international bandwidth would be noticeable)
      – This would give Australian businesses competitive advantages over those based overseas
      – The proliferation of sensors for everything will require small but persistent bandwidth each, the total bandwidth requirements of the thousands of these that will be deployed over the next few decades could be torrential

      And probably plenty more that I haven’t thought of and that haven’t yet been invented.

      • You’ve highlighted some great benefits of higher speeds. The issue is that the ALP’s policy is to delivery high speeds (100Mbps+) to a small minority of the country. Labor’s plan resulted in 79% on fibre connecting at 25Mbps or slower. Labor planned that in 2026 less than 1% would be connected at 1Gbps.

        Either you support only a tiny minority experiencing the true benefit of the NBN or you should be active in attempting to persuade all parties of the fact that speed tiers are crippling the opportunites.

        • Matty- this article is about LNP bullshit claims not Labor bullshit claims. When that article gets written we will all be breathlessly waiting for your thoughtful contribution but for now stay on topic and refrain from hijacking the comments again.

        • Do I really need to copy/paste your questions and my clear and precise answers re: your comments & Delimiter policy “again Mathew”…?

          I assumed (although you rudely ignored the answers, twice, after asking, *sigh*) that you had asked these questions, regarding your continual commenting faux pas’, legitimately and in good faith, as you clearly couldn’t comprehend where exactly you were going wrong and having people arc up as a consequence.

          So I kindly helped you out… “you’re welcome”.

          But now that you’ve received (and rudely ignored) the answers twice, you still continue along the same vein ignoring the policies and very answers you asked for. As such we can ergo only assume you are intentionally breaching and completely illegitimate and disingenuous in your commenting.

          Wow what a revelation eh? But thanks for asking nonetheless and giving us the opportunity to prove this absolutely so, as has now been proven.

          You’re welcome, A G A I N.

        • “Labor planned that in 2026 less than 1% would be connected at 1Gbps”

          Obviously this is utter nonsense…
          Labor made sure that even if that ridiculously unlikely event occurred, they would still have a financially viable model.

          Did they expect it? Obviously not…only an idiot would.
          Did they allow for this as a “worst case”? Yes…that is how well they planned things…

        • The issue is that the ALP’s policy is to delivery high speeds (100Mbps+) to a small minority of the country.

          Actually, the issue is the LPA policy delivers even slower speeds and still has all the bit’s you hate. The current NBN is not Labor policy.

          But why let facts stand in the way of a good rant, eh Mat?

        • Surely the starting point in all this repetitious debate is the state of the copper which in 2003 was at “five minutes to midnight” and would need replacing in 15 years. http://goo.gl/rYtz7T

          Should all remediation have been and continue to be in copper given the world has moved on. And was always likely to do so.

    • I have less hope of that each day. Best we can expect is a FTTdp rollout, not the worst change to the plan.

  7. I think the real problem is that the majority of our so called “leaders” don’t understand the world they now lead. Digital transformation is changing whole economies in ways that are difficult for even the experts to foresee.

    It’s clear to anyone in the know that a strong digital infrastructure will be needed to keep up and compete globally. Virtually every business in the country needs internet access for some or major parts of running their business. Even if your business doesn’t somehow use the internet the banks and other services you use do.

    Our entire economy now runs on the back of digital infrastructure. However the Liberals plan seems to be that we shouldn’t be building great infrastructure in this important sector. It would seem they believe we should be cost cutting and using cheaper and dying / literally rotting old tech.

    That they frame this conversion on how many movies a person can watch at home shows the extent to not only their lack of understanding but there lack of vision. A political party for the economy… you must be joking.

  8. Ignoring the stupidity of fully saturating the bandwidth and expecting things to work…. Streaming five movies in HD requires 5-9 Mbps per user, so to prevent buffering, it requires a 50 Mbps connection. That’s just not happening under the plans that the Coalition are advocating. They could just as well say that a new road from Sydney to Perth will allow drivers to get from the one city to the other in around three hours. Can it be done? Not under the laws and speed limits that are in place. Similarly, the MTM cannot be said to allow that many streams at once. Furthermore, if one node has a 2 Gbps backhaul, then only around 200 movies can be watched the same time. Because there are almost 400 premises per node, do the math. Times when people want to stream HD video, such as evenings and weekends, well, those are buffering times, not movie watching times. And you further speculate that each premises can support five simultaneous connections? Stop Lying.

    • > Can it be done? Not under the laws and speed limits that are in place.

      For a moment I thought you were going to talk about the 79% on fibre that have chosen 25Mbps or slower and also won’t be able to stream 5 HD movies.

    • I was reading Whirlpool earlier, and as I live in WA I was looking at some of the speeds people in Cannington are getting from FTTN. Some are getting less than 2MBit in the evenings during peak time. I know that may improve over time, but seriously it’s a disgrace. I wonder if they were in the 79% of people who chose to have 25mbits or slower? Like 10times slower.

  9. It is a continuing theme of the LNP of blatant misrepresentations and misleading statements. How can you have any faith in this deceitful party

  10. The one thing i got from watching that part of Q&A was that the FTTP NBN needs a better voice than Anthony Albanese. He’s just not up to the task of rebutting even the most ludicrous statement made by the coalition. There are so many points he could have made that would have been far more productive for his argument that “it’s costing more than they said it would”. He did get out the “of course, isn’t about movies — it’s about the economy” bit, but he should have elaborated, it’s the crux of the whole argument. We’re getting a quarter of the speed, for 3/4 (or 2/3?) the cost of FTTP, in a comparative timeframe, it’s going to need upgrading in the next 10 years & FTTP would have paid for itself.
    Anyone who has been following this for the last few years could have done a far superior job last night than Albo did.
    Its such a waste. We deserve better.

    • My favourite point to make to people is this – a majority FTTP NBN actually would have been worth something when it was completed. The MTM dogs breakfast will be lucky to be worth half of what was spent on it, and that isn’t even taking into account the much higher running costs of MTM. What a disaster for this country – but you could say the same thing for most of what the LNP has done in the last 3 years.

      History will judge what was done here, and it will judge harshly.

        • Yeah worst case we actually lose out $9b (which will hit the budget … which is why treasury is in a flat panic atm). I mean going from an 7% ROI to $9b in debt is pretty damn impressive (not) but hey its only ‘monopoly’ money!?!

          (and seriously we’re paying out bonus’ to the board et al for this?)

  11. Build it once and build it right… futureproof, waterproof. The ignorance and deceitfulness is overwhelming. Even if Albo did have a technical grip it would be hard to know where to start with the mess.
    Unfortunately the people who can make it happen are stuck in the shortsighted mindset of the election cycle.

    It is indeed a disaster for our country

  12. Pyne lies. We know this. It’s been demonstrated on many occasions. To deny it is to belittle yourself infront of anyone with the ability to retain facts.

    My main point of contention. Why would anyone ask Pyne about Technology and expect an answer that carried beyond the party line and sound bites? I doubt the man could reconfigure my dsl modem, forget adding constructive debate on technology and key nation building infrastructure.

    If it sounds good, Pyne has said it. If it’s naunced and has slight negatives with a single key overwhelming positivity, Pyne has not. Pyne’s a product of a political system I hate everytime I hear him speak.

  13. Pyne is a liar, he knows it and so do we, the whole coalition is built on deception. They deceive the majority for the sake of a few. They don’t care about Australia, you only have to look at Murdock, he traded his citizenship for money and power and he would trade his American citizenship to further those aims as well.

    • MTM NBN = the world must be flat.

      The conduit to transition the economy for the future is a more spherical outlook.

  14. So when do we get a whole episode of Q&A dedicated to the NBN, with appropriate ministers and experts?

    We’ve had years of avoiding the topic and even now we just get the occasional misleading tidbit from technologically illiterate panelists.

  15. I’m a systems administrator for a group of companies – we have something like 50 internet connections we use. Some providing VPN links back to our head office. I’m charged with the strategic direction for the organisations.

    Of these sites I have 1 that has (a poor speed, high cost) active NBN connection. One. 1. Uno.

    As of late, I am simply ignoring any talk of NBN as (a) who knows if we’ll ever actually eventuate and (b) I simply can’t wait 2-5 years for a measly 12Mbps connection (sure, 12Mbps would be double or triple or beyond the connection speeds I currently have, but by the time it appears I’ll be needing 50 and 100MBps links with what we’ll be doing).

    I’m now forced to put my (bosses) hand firmly down in the pocket to get a Telstra private IP network setup – so that staff productivity is not so dramatically affected by our Australian shinternet.

    • I’m now forced to put my (bosses) hand firmly down in the pocket to get a Telstra private IP network setup – so that staff productivity is not so dramatically affected by our Australian shinternet.

      I suspect that is exactly what the LPA would like all businesses to do Andrew, the current NBN still has no business plans and they do like positive returns for all those “mum and dad” investors in Telstra.

      • This explains why there was not a single reference to business products in the fraudulent CBA TurnBull had written.

  16. The Department of Industry Innovation and Science with Pyne as minister – lol. Its such a brilliant Orwellian Joke, that if I didn’t live here, I’d be laughing my head off. Reminds me of Abbott as minister for Aboriginal and women’s affairs. Someone has a wonderfully wicked sense of humour.

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