YARN: NBN a pipeline to political parsimony

Or how the politicians supposedly representing and delivering technology are a hopeless bunch ...

In science, parsimony is preference for the least complex explanation for an observation. Applied to the current election campaign, the NBN, filter and tech, it probably is as simple as: Abbott is incredibly ignorant; Smith is faking it, badly; Robb is faking it, better; Conroy acts, and acts, and acts; Gillard is probably less ignorant than Abbott, but only slightly; Quigley has knowledge - but would you trust him?.

And that's being nice.

Here I am – a Labor voter tried and true, only a couple of green votes dotting nearly 40 of years of voting, and I'm swinging – nowhere. Having fallen off the Ruddster's bandwagon when he became the Duddster and found Big Red somewhat lacking in appeal, particularly as the ALP kept making the same mistakes they had with the KDudd, I was open to change.

But all there was … was Abbott. That just isn't possible. It was bad enough when he was just a conservative budgie smuggler-wearing sexist religious zealot. Each to his own and all that. No problem. We all have our beliefs. But a luddite conservative budgie smuggler-wearing sexist religious zealot? One step too far. This week he didn't even know his own broadband policy – and he's the leader of the party. Heaven help us. There is no excuse, people, none, no matter how much you analyse it or philosophise – as my colleague, the erudite Mr Ramli did - that it's actually a play for the average-man-vote. Tony, I don't care if you aren't Bill Gates. I'd just like you to be vaguely tech literate. My 82-year-old mum knows more than you do.

Before last weekend Malcolm Turnbull represented some sort of salvation. A great white hope. Not anymore. Australians don't want 100Mbps broadband, he says. Hey! You! Get off of my cloud, don't hang around 'cause two's a crowd … no matter what Steve Ballmer says about having a personal cloud and sharing. I want my 100Mbps. So do a lot of professions. Education, e-Health, big business, finance. And then there's all of us happy-go-lucky little album and film downloaders (legally, of course) – we want our 100Mbps. And why not?

According to, one of the several worldwide download and upload speed defining sites, Australia is 36th in the world for downloading speed and 57th for upload speed. That is staggeringly awful. And before you say I live in a tech bubble, believe me I don't. Yes, I'm the managing editor of a tech-related mag, yes I'm a bit of an Apple fiend, but as much of my spare time as possible is spent outdoors – fishing, preferably in places where's the no tech, no mobile coverage and no people. So when I am at home, I like to play on my Mac – fast! I would like the country I live in to be up there in the modern world not running a long way behind the Aland Islands (an archipelago in the Baltic Sea), Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and other such technically advanced and recognised nations. Ta ta Malcolm.

Tony Smith. That's all you can really say. His contribution to this election campaign has been a gobsmacking nothing. He's a bore. He needed big old Andrew Robb to hold his hand when he launched the Coalition broadband policy. And he obviously knew nearly as little as his boss, friar Abbott. He ran away straight after the launch and hasn't been heard of since. Can't vote for that.

So what am I left with? Conroy. It is a sad world when Stephen Conroy is the best of the two major parties tech players. He's a showman. And he's irritating. He's titters like schoolboy and acts like one. You get the impression he thought it was funny to put cow poo in other kids' socks on school camp. He also says stupid things when it comes to tech. But at least he says something! And, occasionally, he gets it right. Mind you, he wanted a filter. That was bad. But he got smart and got rid of it.

And the PM. Has a thoroughly horrible job running round trying to clean up after Mr Dudd, plug all those little holes that keep leaking disaster after disaster. Understand tech? Jules hasn't time. Probably doesn't care either. But at least she went to Tassie for a fake NBN launch and pulled it off - by pushing a button. Oh well.

Quigley is, of course, a paid employee. But as paid employees go at least he sounds like he knows what he is talking about. Mind you, at a million bucks a year he ought to. But the whole 1Gbps download thing this week - Mike, you don't have to suck up to the school captain, Stephen, so obviously.

The only person who actually seems to have brain when it comes to tech, the NBN, the whole damn thing is the Greens' Scott Ludlam. He's been erudite, smart, and my wife thinks he's hot. Pity, his party wants to ban fishing in vast areas of Australian waters and close zoos. Enough said.

Folks, it's a disaster. There are many fine men in this country when it comes to understanding technology and its place in the future for Australia and Australians. None of them are in politics. When it comes to technology, this has been a farce with the NBN – not the politicians, our so-called leaders - as the starring player. Poor Mr Filter was promised a lead role but the script was rewritten and he was sent away to a dark place (rumours are the Gulag Archipelago), hopefully never to return. And as for Mr and Mrs Data Retention, well they are … secret. Of course. There are plenty of others worthy of a bit-part but their roles came to nothing.

So with just days to go I'm left with one reality: Every vote's a winner, baby (cue Hot Chocolate) ... … but what the hell am I going to do with mine?

Actually, I know. Aland Islands here I come.

Mike Gee is the acting Managing Editor of ARN