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.
“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.