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yARN: You’ve got to be joking, Mr Minchin

yARN: You’ve got to be joking, Mr Minchin

Why the ICT industry must rebuke the Shadow Communications Minister for his reckless comments on the NBN

Shadow Communications Minister, Nick Minchin, needs a head check and the ICT industry should give it to him.

The minister’s comments in the last few days on the proposed national broadband network (NBN) reek of base and reckless opportunism with scant regard for the support given to the idea by the industry he will need to work with if ever gets the chance to replace the incumbent, Senator Stephen Conroy.

On the back of a survey by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) which showed more than 80 per cent of small to medium enterprises (SME) are satisfied with their broadband Internet services, Minchin jumped at the chance to attack the Rudd NBN plan. “The Rudd Government is basing its debt-laden plan to build a $43 billion National Broadband Network on the highly questionable assumption that the overwhelming majority of Australians are deeply dissatisfied with the range of existing services," Minchin said. “There is no evidence in this ACMA report to justify the Rudd Government risking billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.” You have got to be joking Minister. Was that the purpose of the report and is that really the only thing the Government is basing its plan on?

Mr. Minchin you can’t seriously be trying to say because we are not so disappointed with what we have now that the country doesn’t want, or need, the best of the best networks that are available today.

Unless the Minister has had his head buried in the sand he surely would know that the ICT industry, and arguably most other sectors in the economy, contends the rollout of the NBN will not only place the nation at a significant competitive advantage in the global economy but also provide job, innovation and business opportunities that are severely limited by the existing networks.

Yes, this comes at a cost. But would you rather pay it now and reap the rewards from being bold or pay for it later – because we will need to do it at some stage – and suffer the opportunity cost?

If we all settled for our existing mediocre ICT existence, as Minchin seems intent on arguing for, we would never innovate or try to improve our lot in life and the country would lose the opportunity to gain a considerable competitive advantage over other nations.

But maybe Minchin actually does believe the NBN is only about fast Internet – a week earlier after Australia came in at 11th position in a broadband penetration survey conducted by US-based firm, Strategic Analytics, he had this to say in a press release:

“Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, loves portraying our country as a total broadband backwater, but in terms of access and penetration of services Australia remains in an extremely credible position internationally.”

In both examples the research was far from comprehensive and unlikely to be used as the sole reference in any serious investigation of the issues. There are just as many reports that indicate Australia is seriously lagging in its ICT infrastructure.

Minchin knows this, but has consciously decided to play opportunistic politics – the kind that now has his leader in dire straits after the Oz Ute email scandal. If, as a decision maker – who is ultimately accountable to the public and not his party politics – Minchin can’t rise beyond the reckless comments he has been making, leaders in the ICT industry should pull him aside and give him a serve that leaves the minister under no illusions as to why it wants the NBN.


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