Sunday, 19 September 2010

Open Letter to Warren Entsch MP re: Broadband in FNQ

Syd Walker writes an open letter to newly elected Federal MP, Warren Entsch, and his communications spokesperson, Malcolm Turnbull.


Dear Warren,

Since my last email congratulating you on your personal victory at the recent Federal election, Julia Gillard has been sworn in as the new Prime Minister.

The Gillard government has pledged to spend an unprecedented sum of money to upgrade Australia's telecommunications. It is also revising its plans for the roll-out to better accommodate the concerns of regional and rural Australia.

This presents a new opportunity for FNQ. To my knowledge, the Cairns region has not so far been included on any published roll-out plan for the National Broadband Network. There is now a chance to rectify that and make sure this region does not miss out, yet again, in significant improvements to broadband speed and access.

Had Jim Turnour been returned as local member, I would be writing to him now, urging him to ensure the NBN rollout commences in FNQ in this term of Parliament and that we do not fall further behind the rest of the country on this important new infrastructure and the opportunities it will bring.

I am writing to you with that request, but recognize there may be a problem. As things stand, the Coalition is opposed to the NBN.

I would like reassurance from you that despite your Party's formal opposition to the NBN, you will not 'go slow' on securing a good deal for FNQ in the new rollout. Competition between regions for early access to high-quality broadband is likely to be intense. It will be important that local MPs work hard with and on behalf of their constituents to help ensure their own region doesn't miss out.

Could you please let me now what you intend to do in the immediate future to secure a fair deal of the NBN for FNQ - in terms of rollout date, expenditure and access percentages?

Syd Walker

PS: While I'm a supporter of significant and rapid infrastructure expenditure to bring Australia's broadband network into the fast lane by international standards, aspects of the current government's plans are cause for concern.

These include issues such as net neutrality (must be guaranteed), privacy (we need world best practice and no broadscale data retention), censorship (no mandatory censorship) and potential waste (public monies must be well-spent, avoiding corruption, inefficiency and 'jobs for the boys'). Ensuring affordable universal access is also important; we're fast moving into an era when broadband will be akin to a necessity of civilized life.

I hope the Federal Opposition, along with cross-benchers and The Greens, will be vigilant on behalf of the public interest in all those policy areas and will work to stifle control-freakery that unfortunately has become a hallmark of Senator Conroy's term as Communications Minister. Once again, I thank you for your own strong stance against mandatory government censorship of the internet prior to the election.


Indica Man said...

Good points in your PS re the rollout. I assumed some parts of FNQ have at least wireless broadband. But I guess that would end somewhere just North of Cairns?

It's a shamefull state of affairs for our country when the places that need good communication services don't get them.

An good example of how remote areas are serviced would be Bedourie, in the Far West. Bedourie has no mobile service. They have standard PSTN(?) phone service. No dial-up ISP. The council has a satellite connection that is flaky at best.
Towns like Bedourie and others NEED a good communications system precisely because of their remoteness.
I hope it comes about sooner than later.

Thaddeus said...

Ditto, Inca Man. Entsch of course will strenuously oppose the whole concept based on the "concerns" that Syd has so generously provided for him. Somehow though he will include a "blaming" action to it, using the issue to castigate the State Members or the Mayor of Cairns. Ho hum, same ole same. Wait and see.

Alison Alloway said...

KitchenSlut, can you re-post us those URLS on the broadband again so that we can do some extra reading on this? Thanks.

Michael Wyres said...

Sorry, but Cairns appears to me to be on the NBN coverage map for fibre, as published on NBN Co's website for quite some time:

The red (fibre) and grey (wireless) areas cover 97% of the Australian population...the remainder of the land mass (beige) will be serviced by satellite...

Syd Walker said...

Thanks Michael (Wyres). You're right that much of the Cairns region is on the NBN Coverage map.

However, unless I misunderstand that map, it depicts the eventual NBN as currently anticipated. There's no date associated with the FNQ rollout. That could still be many years away...

My question to Warren Entsch is what he'll do to get FNQ on the PRIORITY list so we get some real progress in this term of parliament.

I'd hoped Jim Turnour might have got FNQ prioritised already. It doesn't seem that happened.

IMO, we need Warren working hard on our behalf to ensure we don't get pushed further back down the priority list.

Michael Wyres said...

Absolutely...just wished to point out that "the Cairns region has not so far been included on any published roll-out plan for the National Btoadband (sic) Network" is a statement that could have been answered with a Google for "NBN coverage maps"...

As for priority - (and no disrespect to North Queensland, as a I lived in Cairns and Townsville for almost a year as a child) - but there are many other areas of Australia that have equal or more claim to be "needing it the most" - yes, your local representatives need to push to get the area "up the list" as much as possible, but every representative of every other area should be doing the same.

In the end, it will get down to economics and practicality as to which regional areas get the rollout first. Make the case, and you'll get up the list.

If another area makes a better case, you'll slip back down the list.

Remember, the new government hasn't even sat yet, and the result has only been known for a couple of weeks - NBN Co themselves don't meet with the minister until this coming week, so not even they know how the change to a regional "roll-in" affects the plans.

It will come - but very few people know what timeframe any area is likely to get, much less Malcolm Turnbull or Warren Entsch, who are on the opposition side of the house.

Tom said...

Entsch, as our local member, should be engaging in a cooperative dialogue with the Gillard government on a number of issues affecting the region. Will it happen? My guess is he will simply engage in endless spoiler tactics at the behest of his leader, thus cutting off his nose (and ours) to spite his face.
I hope my guess is wrong!

KitchenSlut said...

Alison this is the most recent but a browse through Core Economic blog will throw up much from the past from Gans. Christopher Joye has also blogged on this and is probably giving the best economic blog in Australia just now. Peter Martin has also recently posted and certain Walker seens to have cyberstalked me into there .....

If you want partisan opinions John Quiggin from QU blogs the left (quiet lately) and Catalaxy Files (Sinclair Davidson from RMIT blogs the right)

I also note that somewhere in there the legendary old fashioned leftist Ken Davidson from The Age has thrown in some NBN queries?

The links from Gans and associates I regard as impartisan which is what we need? There is much misunderstanding here ....

When I have posted before on this before the response from Syd was to ridicuke Gans as a 'classical economist' and then ignorantly rant on social values! Ummm .... yes .... this was exactly what Gans said and that the NBN was commercially unvialble but may (?) be justified on a social basis. I have learnt that Syd is good on voluminous info but has the financial acumen of a dead fruitbat and the analytical skills of a newt (refer to monty python)!

The economic context of this critical analysis has also bypasses most populist ranters! The 'rabid beleivers' continue to spruik social advantages which gans supports. BUT .... this is NOT the way the NBN is structured which is an off-balance-sheet commercial entity?!

If you want it to be a social venture fine but bring it back on Federal balance sheet where the $43 billion blows a hole in public finances?! No, this is not a part of the recent innane election debate on deficits and budgets .... but it should have been!?

The regional priority now being pursued by the most salivating private broadband coonsumers is also extremely questionable? The economics here are bloody obvious as anyone who has worked on a new capital intensive project such as mine would know the tinming of cash flows are critical.

Initial investment in the loss making sectors such as "the bush" destroys the economics of the currently commercially structured venture! NPV is destroyed. Initial roll-out in the cities may provide the cash flow to justify 'the bush' but it dont work in reverse!

What amazes me here is that so many people who dont trust Conroy are so prepared to back him and BELIEVE here on scant info with so much being apparentky witheld .......

I see too many simmilarities with delusuonal groupthings from the past?

P.S. I note that Michael Wyress who has commented here is a self described tech head from Victoria. That map is as useful as SFA!

Michael Wyres said...

Self-described? Well, I've been working in telecommunications for almost 16 years, I think I know a little about the industry...and how telecommunications projects are designed, planned, and rolled out...

I think it would be far more valuable to the conversation if you came up with some reasoned positions on the topic, instead of attacking people for the sake of will actually give your posts some credibility...

Fired said...

Michael, personally I appreciated your input. We regular readers of CB are quite used to kitchenslot's little 'brain explosions' and this person/s' often juvenile personal attacks on contributors using an assumed sense of 'intellectual superiority'.
We have a town full of 'know-alls' like this one - sometimes they even call themselves 'consultants' - and haven't they been a big help to our local economy.
Must now use an assumed name to escape kitchenslit's ire.

KitchenSlut said...

Well yes reading your analysis of the election as "tech heads finally gain a political voice" I think my description apt?

I have provided links to some of our best thinkers including possibly our most acknowledged communications economist? What have you provided?

Apart from the hyper-sensitive response to the reference to yourself which particular part of the analysis did you consider discredited me?

Michael Wyres said...

Sorry, but resorting to calling people "dead fruitbats" and "newts" does not inspire credibility...

If you showed a little respect towards others, you'd probably find people would take you more seriously...

Pete said...

I don't see the point of asking Warren Entsch about securing a fair deal for FNQ as the Coalition is opposed to the NBN and would have cancelled the project if they won the election. Anyone with half a brain knows that Abbott doesn't give a stuff about people who live in rural or regional areas. The only sensible policy that the Coalition has in regards to telecommunications is to oppose Senator Conroy's short-sighted plan for ISP level filtering. He is the only one from the ALP who is stupid enough to pander to the fools and fundamentalists from the christian lobby.

Alison Alloway said...

Thanks KitchenSlut for the links. This is Australia's biggest public project in decades and I would like to be more fully informed. Yes, there are social benefits...will it initiate the beginning of "A Drift back to the Country"I wonder? Our cities are teeming and population growth along the coastal fringe is unsustainable. Then again we have the looming spectre of global warming and rising seas. Whatever, I would like to know more about the costings.
PS Michael Wyes..KitchenSlut isn't bad when you get to know him!!!

Syd Walker said...


My letter to Warren Entsch was prompted by some of the points you make. He may indeed take the view that the NBN is simply somthing to oppose. In that case, we in this electorate won't have a direct advocate in the Federal Parliament for the upgrading of FNQs broadband network. That would be a real shame, IMO and I hope Warren doesn't take that approach.

@Michael Wyers. It's quite true that the prioritisation of NBN rollout won't just be done on the basis of lobbying; there is, preumably, a (still-evolving?) merits-based approach to making decisions about this. In an ideal society, that's probably all there would be.

But in our less than perfect Australia, where squeaky wheels often tend to get oiled first, areas with MPs who hustle for their electorate can at least be sure they haven't been passed over for lack of lobbying. I'd like to feel our MP is doing his bit to get fast broadband to FNQ ASAP.


Sorry I upset you in a previous comment. I can't recall what it was about in detail, but I do know my remark referred to neoclassical economics – not classical. As for 'cyberstalking' you on Peter Martin's blog... what an odd suggestion. I'd no idea you were commenting there too.

Quien Sabe said...


You can rant all you want at Warren, Julia, Kevin et al...but...!

It seems to me that the reality of the new "Guv'ment" has still to sink in.

NOBODY can deliver ANYTHING without the co-operation of a handful of Members outside of the mainstream parties.

This has been described elsewhere as the "Tyranny of the Minority".

Despite the rhetoric, only time will tell if the "Minority" has the welfare of the Nation at heart or are more intent on their own ultimate Political survival.

Yes we have a Prime Minister, yes we have a Cabinet. Do they have a mandate to deliver...not withoutthe agreement the "independents"....who have reserved the right to withhold their vote as they see fit....!

Get used to it or be prepared to go back to the Ballot Box.

Syd Walker said...

Personally, I support large public expenditure on broadband - seeing it as a high national priority. That's been my position for many, many elections, BTW. I first used the internet with enthusiasm two decades ago. I had an STD dial-up connection to Pegasus in Byron Bay from 1990 onwards, before the web was invented. It was obvious, as soon as the web came along, that affordable bandwidth was a high infrastructure priority; those countries that built a fast network early would gain a significant advantage.

The NBN is only one (still evolving) proposal; there are, of course, other ways of bringing better broadband services to Australians. Ultimately, I don't really care what name our network is given or which party implements it.

These are the two main things I do care about in relation to this issue:

1/ I'd like the upgrade to affordable fast broadband to happen... FAST! Selfishly, I care most about the region where I live - but I'd support rapid improvements everywhere. I don't want another electoral cycle of waiting. For me, this wait for fast broadband has by now been going on for way too long already! I'm still on ADSL-1. Given that I live quite near an exchange, I don't see why I - and others in a similar position elsewhere - should to have to move just to get fast broadband.

2/ I want the upgraded network to be properly regulated to protect personal privacy, ensure the internet is free from mandatory censorship and to allow for genuine competition on a level playing field between retailers of bandwidth and providers of information and entertainment services.

The rest, for me, is of lesser interest. But what I don't support is another three years of yet more theoretical argumentation about the best thing to do, while precious few tangible improvements come our way. This community is nuts if we sit back and let that happen again, IMO. Presumably the Chamber of Commerce is onto this? I do hope so.

I welcome Malcolm Turnbull's involvement in this issue, even from the opposition benches. He shows serious signs of knowing what he's talking about. FWIW, I tend to agree with some of the arguments he's made recently about the Government's lack of a business case. Close oversight from the entire parliament should get a better result.

However, I fear Tony Abbott holds the view that the NBN should simply be knocked over, because that would help ruin the Gillard Govertnment's credibility and bring him to office. He'd like Malcolm to be the wrecking ball.

My argument to Mr Abbott is that not only is such an approach contrary to the best interests of Australians as a whole; it's also bad politics for the Coalition.

I think that, like me, most of the public wants results first and foremost. We're tired of grandstanding. Politicians who fail to get results for their electorates in this term of Parliament deserve to be punished at the next election. Broadband upgrade – like climate change action – is too important to put on indefinite hold.

KitchenSlut said...

"I first used the internet with enthusiasm two decades ago. I had an STD dial-up connection to Pegasus in Byron Bay from 1990 onwards, before the web was invented."

Big deal I beat Syd by some years and was financially transacting online in 1986 with telecom Viatel. How slow was he! Actually I would define prgress here in terms of what people do with their comms spend and info as relatively slow with fixed line and the huge leap has been in mobile everywhere which has also yielded the biggest economic and social gains despite technological inferiority?!

"Sorry, but resorting to calling people "dead fruitbats" and "newts" does not inspire credibility"

Those comments relate to Syd's views which I continue to disrepect without apology. Let me quote recently from here on this:

"People will argue that he has shown a lack of respect for the views of people of faith. This argument mangles syntax. How can you show respect for a view? Respect is applied to people, not views. At some point, the verb respect started being applied to abstract nouns (like the “war on terror”). I have no respect for views that I consider wrong. I just think they are wrong. How can anyone respect falsehood? Moreover, if someone has enough views that I think are wrong, I lose respect for the person as well. I might still pretend to have respect, simply because society has to function with the minimum amount of friction. But if someone asks me my opinion about them, I will offer a negative one. So saying that atheists should respect religious views is, by my analysis, an abuse of language."

By the way that link at Club Troppo relates to the threat that an employee at QUT may lose his job for his protest smoking using pages from both the Koran and Bible and there is an email link to directly lobby QUT ......

MaryO said...

Dear KS,
You are free, of course, to both hold and express your most expressive views.

But on the whole, personal attacks here on CB only serve to detract from the ultimate potential and value of this site.

Don’t forget that CB is squarely in the public eye right now. Due to MM's notorious defamation case - which also happens to be a vital landmark case. According to Peter Black, an internet defamation expert at QUT.

In other words, the outcome of MM’s case could affect everyone in Australia henceforth. Particularly, with respect to freedom of expression on BLOGS, where everyone gets an equal chance to have a say on matters of importance to us all.

So instead of bitching, we could all make an effort to help MM substantiate the superlative merits of his creation, and provide exemplary live demos.

Oliver Deadlynch said...

Well the 80's was the first time I suffered at the hands of Australian telecommunications! I was sitting in mission control observing a deep space craft with simultaneous feeds from Carnarvon WA and Parkes NSW, both feeds supposed to be completely seperate for backup - one via landline, one via satellite. Except that for one 5km stretch outside Sydney (!) where both lines went down the same duct - the same unfortunate duct that someone's back-hoe went through whilst building their swimming pool - resulting with blank screens on the other side of the world and much panic.

Seems to me not much has changed in the last 25 odd years, my business is still suffering at the hands of inadequate planning and provisioning by Telstra over the years which is why I personally think the NBN can't come fast enough. As far as I'm concerned simplistically we can't afford NOT too, if we don't start changing to a knowledge and service based economy - what else is Australia going to do when the minerals run out?

MattCYP said...

Wireless broadband is available wherever Telstra has its NextG network, and that includes all remote communities and towns on Cape York. Works quite well. Fibre would be an improvement, and I believe it is planned to lay fibre up the Peninsula Road.

Thaddeus said...

Has there been a reply as yet from Entsch? Despite his many loud and continuous claims to be
"his own man" (which newcomers to Cairns suck up like drool) Entsch faithfully regurgitates up party policy or uses sophistry and dramatics to confuse the unsuspecting.

Michael Wyres said...


You are quite correct that the backbone will extend up the peninsula, with Weipa on the list of towns to come under fibre coverage.

While under the NBN plan, the vast majority of the peninsula (in terms of land mass) will be covered by the satellite portion of the plan, the mere fact that there will be more competitive - (and therefore cost effective) - backhaul services into the peninsula, the ability of existing ADSL/ADSL2 technologies to penetrate communities up there is enhanced.

Areas where there are no plans for fibre rollout initially, may find that it becomes much more viable for such a rollout to occur in the future.

Once the NBN project is completed, by no means will broadband infrastructure in Australia cease to evolve further.

KitchenSlut said...

stinhambo said...


I think Peter proved why he is an economics correspondent and not IT.

He has no clue to the state of telecoms and broadband in Australia ans seems to think that everyone has access to ADSL and everyone gets the advertised speed.

The Government should be doing a lot more to promote the benefits through business case studies and promoting future plans.

At the moment people mistakenly think it will only benefit them via faster YouTube downloads. This is very far from the whole picture!

stinhambo said...

Also, Cairns won't get the NBN before anyone else for the same reason we lose out on a lot of things before cities like Townsville -

The leaders of Cairns haven't any vision.

How about talking to businesses that service PNG/Indonesia/China and seeing if the NBN will benefit them and what needs to happen to bring those businesses to Cairns?

A lot of money can flow into the city, an out of city business district can be built and perhaps projects like the cultural centre and light railway can happen?

Syd Walker said...

Well said stinhambo.

There are a lot of FNQ-based IT industry people and members of the public who use the internet a lot and for whom this is a primary issue.

We could do with an organisation that represent our interests.

Developers, big tourist operators, miners and road builders have the Chamber of Commerce - but a glance at the Cairns Chamber of Commerce Media page displays little interest in IT - and none (that I noticed) in this crucial issue of new broadband infrastructure.


No answer yet from Warren Entsch but the email was only sent to him yesterday at the time this article was published. I shall report back when I get a reply.

John, Kuranda said...

Having high speed access certainly is a plus - but unfortunately Syd, I think that you (and probably I) will not be a recipient. I had a look at the Willunga SA area scheduled for initial roll out. Seems to be only the core area of the community. Which means that many of us who may think it's coming to a node near us - will be bitterly mistaken. But don't worry - satellite reception has been promised to those of us too far away for fibre optic or wireless. Now is that no progress!

stinhambo said...

Any news on your letter Syd?

I wonder if Advance Cairns has this on their radar?

Syd Walker said...

No reply yet that I'm aware of stinhambo. (No reply from Senator Jan McLucas, either)

I also hope its on the agenda for Advance Cairns. Anyone who'll push.

One thing I'd appreciate - and I imagine there are lots of FNQ people in the same boat - is a RAPID rollout of fibre to the node. That was, after all, the ALP's original promise back in 2007.

It would mean (correct me if I'm wrong) that at least that those of us connected via all the current FNQ exchanges could access an ADSL-2 service without further delay. At the moment quite a few exchanges, such as my local exchange, are not up to ADSL-2.

Syd Walker said...

I notice the LNP mayor in Brisbane is not hanging around on delivering fast broadband to Brisbanites: We can't wait for NBN': super-fast broadband for Brisbane.

Could Local Government deliver a result for FNQ too, in the absence of any noticable effort at Federal level?