Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and his rival Malcolm Turnbull have faced off in a live webcast debate about the NBN on ZDNet. In it they both plumbed new depths of vitriol. This is becoming embarrassing.
We needn’t go over the arguments, which we have heard ad nauseum. Let’s just concentrate on the language. Here’s a lightly edited version of some of the comments, taken directly from the webcast. Read on –it gets better (or worse) the longe they go.
Conroy: Malcolm is behaving like an incumbent telco. They just want to sweat the copper as much as they can and try to grab as much profit out of that copper as they can. Buying copper has to be the dumbest piece of public policy I have seen in my 17 years in Parliament.
Turnbull: But you paid for the copper!
Conroy. We didn’t. We paid for the access to the ducts, Malcolm (talks over Turnbull’s interjections). And Malcolm has failed to mention the key thing – upload speeds. Malcolm is still living in the broadcast world. He hasn’t moved into the digital world. Waving an iPad around doesn’t move you into the digital world. The digital world is about users uploading content. Google is building FTTP. What do you know that Google doesn’t?
Turnbull: Stephen, you cannot insult the intelligence of the public the way you do. Google is building it selectively where it makes sense. FTTP is very expensive and difficult to run along existing pipes and wires, as you are discovering. You are running so far behind. This project is failing because you – you Stephen – under-estimated the cost of building FTTP in brownfield areas. Six years ago there were two million people in Australia who couldn’t download a YouTube video, and there still is. You’ve achieved nothing.
Conroy (interjecting over moderator): I have to respond.You can’t let him get away with that tirade of dishonesty. Mike Quigley (NBN CEO) showed at the Parliamentary Committee that the cost is much lower than Malcolm is saying. The great thing about debating Malcolm is that he is so utterly compelling in the moment, so long as he can convince you to forget everything he has ever said before. Three years ago he said he could do everything he needed on 3Mbps. Then he said families need 12 Mbps …
Turnbull (interjecting): This is pathetic. Stephen, why don’t you address …
Conroy: Why don’t you let me finish …
Turnbull: The difference between you and me is that you aren’t addressing the fundamental issue – the cost-effectiveness of alternative technologies. All you want to do is sling back …
Conroy: I’m not slinging back. I’m just pointing out what you have consistently said.
(both attempting to talk over each other)
Turnbull: your project is not happening.
Conroy: The Coalition will need to borrow $29 billion to build a network that Malcolm admits – though he keeps running away from it – that will need to be upgraded in the future. It will need to be upgraded much sooner than they say – data volumes are going up, up, up. We will borrow $39 billion to give us the world’s best Gigabit network. Malcolm’s whole policy collapses on the basis of what will be needed in the future. If Malcolm had been in charge of building the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the 1930s he would have made it one lane each way.
Turnbull: Stephen is fond of using that metaphor. It just shows what he doesn’t understand about telecoms networks. If you build a new bridge you cannot just tack on a new lane every ten years. Telecoms networks are not like that – they are being upgraded all the time. That’s why you don’t have to put it all in today to anticipate demand in 30 years’ time.
Conroy: Isn’t it great that Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott know what we will be using the Internet for in the future. His network cannot deliver the sort of upload seeds that FTTP can deliver. He can sprinkle pixie dust called vectoring around, but he cannot guarantee these upload speeds. If you are going to have a cloud based digital economy you need the upload speeds. Stop just thinking about downloading movies, Malcolm.
Turnbull (now talking about Telstra’s existing copper): If Stephen had been competent he would have negotiated an option over the copper instead of leaving it laying worthless in the ground. Regrettably this is the first time he has negotiated a commercial deal, it’s a pity he had to cut his teeth on such a big one …
Conroy: How did the FAI –HIH deal go, Malcolm? That was a cracker! You advised Ray Williams to buy FAI, didn’t you? Great effect on the economy.
Turnbull: I’m glad you said that, because that is completely untrue.
Conroy: Why did you pay money to the liquidator? How much to you pay?
Turnbull: I gave Ray Williams no advice at all.
Conroy: You can tell us! Commercial in confidence?
Turnbull: You are so desperate the best you can do is smear. You poor fellow.
Conroy: How much did you pay the liquidator?
Turnbull: You are such a mess, such a grub, Stephen. If you want to know about HIH, read the Royal Commission …
Conroy: I’ve read the liquidator’s reports. Why did you pay the liquidator?
Turnbull: I didn’t pay the liquidators.
Conroy: The company paid on your behalf. Come on.
(Moderator brings the debate back on topic. The rest is boring).
See the debate at: http://oursay.org/the-communications-debate