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Chris Disspain is the bloke in charge of the .au domain. It’s his job to make sure that when you search flowers.com.au you’re likely to find a business based in Australia that has something to do with flowers. Not all countries manage that, but in Australia it pretty much; “does what it says on the tin,” says Disspain.

He’d originally planned to spend 12 months in the role as CEO of .auDA. Instead he’s been there for 12 years, a period which has brought enormous change to telecommunications and technology – not least with the unfolding of the national broadband network plan. So from his vantage point is the NBN a good idea?

“From a technical point of view, anyone who tells you that wireless can be as good as fibre is incorrect. One person on fibre and one person on wireless can achieve impressive speeds. The problem with wireless is it degrades.”

But as a lawyer Disspain acknowledges he could argue for or against the need for fibre.  “I cannot see any business that would benefit today from having an NBN – that’s true, but once it’s there then all sorts of things are possible.”

The art of the possible has long exercised Disspain, from his earliest years when he wanted to become a magician – but the communications roots can be traced further back.

Disspain’s father, who was 50 when his son was born, had been a telephone engineer before the war, while his mother left the WRNS to become a telephonist. After the war his father started his own business and focussed on directing the education of Disspain and his younger sister.

“I wanted to be a magician – still do,” he says, but “my father was obsessed with me having an education, I went to private school and was an anarchist – Mill Hill. It was the ‘70s, I was a day boy and hated it for about three years. Then I kind of decided I could manipulate it to work in my favour. I did music and played at being a DJ and collected magic tricks and my dad kept the pressure up.

“During the ‘O’ level year (age 16) we did a careers test – and about three weeks later a letter came addressed to my parents … mine said ‘advertising, teaching and public relations’. My dad’s response was ‘advertising’s for poofs, teaching’s for girls and what the hell is public relations?’

“He said you can be an architect, accountant, banker, doctor or a lawyer. Given that I can’t draw, can’t count and faint at the sight of blood off I went and became a lawyer.”

With the magician’s cloak packed away Disspain studied law at London University, took articles and began working at the law firm his father used, becoming a partner in his mid-20s.

Focussed on commercial law and mergers and acquisitions, Disspain started working for a number of mining companies based in Western Australia. After a trip to Perth to finalise a deal for a client he eventually emigrated.

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Beverley Head

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Beverley Head is a Sydney-based freelance writer who specialises in exploring how and why technology changes everything - society, business, government, education, health. Beverley started writing about the business of technology in London in 1983 before moving to Australia in 1986. She was the technology editor of the Financial Review for almost a decade, and then became the newspaper's features editor before embarking on a freelance career, during which time she has written on a broad array of technology related topics for the Sydney Morning Herald, Age, Boss, BRW, Banking Day, Campus Review, Education Review, Insite and Government Technology Review. Beverley holds a degree in Metallurgy and the Science of Materials from Oxford University and a deep affection for things which are shaken not stirred.

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