“If I say to you, everyone in this room, if you want to bid next week in our spectrum auction you’d better wear red underpants on your head, I’ve got some news for you. You’ll be wearing them on your head.”
So quoth Australia’s Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy. “I have unfettered legal power. There’s a seriously important difference between the Australian model and overseas. Not many regulators have quite that much power.”
A humorous way of making a point perhaps, but not fully appreciated as such, judging from the nervous laughter in the room. Senator Conroy was in New York for the ITU’s Broadband Commission for Digital Development (iTWire, 25 September). He took time out to address the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information (CITI) State of Telecom 2012 conference at New York’s Columbia University. It was a small informal group, and as often happens nowadays, his talk has found its way on to YouTube.
Most of what he had to say was unremarkable. He spoke of many things – about the challenges of replacing aging infrastructure, of OTT business services, and of how only governments can take the long term view needed to build telecommunications infrastructure. Oh, and the bit about red underpants and how you better wear them on your head if he says so.
Conroy is many things. He is an intelligent and hard working man dedicated to the NBN. He is an ALP apparatchik, a pommie, and a Catholic, and a teetotaller and wowser. He is also a major embarrassment to Australia with his arrogant and stupid remarks. As Mitt Romney found out recently, and as Alan Jones so pathetically demonstrated just last Friday, there is no longer any such thing as comments behind closed doors. In the modern world of mobile and instant communications, everything is public. Conroy’s infantile remarks show he is no humourist, and had best not try to be one. Stick to the NBN, Steve.