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Saturday, 21 May 2016 13:41

What does the NBN have to do with national security? Featured

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What does the mess that the National Broadband Network has become have to do with national security? The short answer is nothing.

Then why is Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull — the same man who is responsible for the mess to a large extent — trying to use the fig leaf of a coward to defend the raids carried out by the Australian Federal Police on Labor Party functionaries?

And we are being asked to believe that the government was unaware that the raids were planned! Please!

The background to the story is simple: internal NBN documents were leaked to various media organisations and it emerged that not everything was as hunky-dory with the building of the network as Turnbull and his pals would have us believe.

From a fibre-to-the-premises network that would cost something in the region of $49 billion, the NBN has now become the equivalent of what Indians call sambar – a curry into which one casts every kind of vegetable imaginable. The so-called multi-technology mix is a dog's breakfast and will have to be upgraded soon after its completion.

The cost estimate for this mongrel has now grown to $56 billion and it is so far behind schedule that many of us at iTWire will be in our graves before it arrives in the suburbs in which we live.

The NBN is a government company. It filed a complaint with the AFP over the leaks of the documents that were fed to media organisations. So how did the AFP know where to carry out raids? Doubtless, they would have examined the metadata of journalists to find their sources.

The Labor Party foolishly gave the government support to pass the metadata retention laws. Now it is coming back to bite them.

Who will be raided next – the ABC, Fairfax Media and News Corporation, the media organs that ran the stories which proved that for all his bluster and talk of innovation and agility, Turnbull had made a pretty big mess of the NBN? He was the minister responsible until he stabbed Tony Abbott in the back and took his job in September last year.

The AFP chief Andrew Colvin was out there on Friday denying that the government was behind the raids. But how can he be given any credence when his own staff allowed an employee of the nbn to accompany them on the raid and photograph documents that were seized? This is beginning to look like the police force of some Latin American dictatorship where the golden rule prevails: the people with the gold make the rules.

Is this Turnbull's way of trying to shift the political debate to national security? Looks like that, given the way in which Immigration Minister Peter Dutton started the dog whistling a few days back by making false claims about refugees.

The NBN has got nothing to do with national security. It is a network that should have been built at least a decade ago if Australia wanted to be competitive internationally. It would have helped in the transition of the economy. Instead, given the bungling that we have seen, we have a mutt that leaves us staring at a whirling ball as we wait for audio and video to sync on a streaming video.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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