'You Changed Horse In Mid-Stream': Kevin Rudd On Turnbull's NBN

Image: Getty

In 2009, then-Prime Minister and Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd launched the National Broadband Network -- building fibre infrastructure to 93 per cent of Australian homes, the largest public works project in Australian history. In the last eight years, though, the NBN has transformed drastically -- including a fundamental change in design after the 2013 election won by Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party. After a few years in the wilderness, Kevin Rudd is back in the spotlight, and he's throwing shade at the farce he thinks the NBN has become.

The 2014 overhaul of the National Broadband Network switched the majority of the network design from fibre to the premises (FTTP) to fibre to the node (FTTN), as well as introducing the 'multi-technology mix' of existing installed hybrid fibre-coaxial cables like the ones used for Telstra and Optus' pay TV networks.

That move has been plagued with headaches, including long waits for installations, a technology divide between different connections, and wildly variable speeds for similar connections on the fibre to the node network. The all-fibre FTTP network was no darling either, though -- with cost overruns for early installations the latest catch-cry for critics of the plan.

The Prime Minister behind the original NBN design spoke to the ABC last night and lambasted the current state of play -- and specifically targeting the now-PM Malcolm Turnbull, telling him: "the changes all lie on your head."

The full transcript of Rudd's interview with 7:30 host Leigh Sales is included below, or you can click here to watch the video on the ABC website. [ABC]

LEIGH SALES: One of your major policies, the National Broadband Network, is in the news today. Its CEO says it may never turn a profit. There are acres of customer complaints about its operation.

Did the Labor Party saddle the nation with a white elephant?

KEVIN RUDD: Well, Leigh, you know as well as I do that's a grossly unfair question, because what we launched as the National Broadband Network was fibre optic to the premises nationwide, because it would be that model which actually delivered the revenue stream long-term to make the NBN financially sustainable. And it was that on which it was modelled.

So what did Abbott and Turnbull then do? They turned it on its head and made it fibre optic not to the premises but to the node: that mystical point somewhere in the neighbourhood. So, in other words, they changed the model completely.

And the reason why people are not taking it up is because what we find is that people don't see the advantage in terms of reliable bandwidth and band speed on the ground.

I note in passing that the position adopted by the conservatives in the 2013 election seems to have been identical with that preferred by News Limited. It's I think a matter of historical record that News Limited did not want the National Broadband Network; that News Limited did not want fibre optic to the premises.

And the reason they didn't want that was because it would provide direct competition to the Foxtel cable television network in this country from service delivery companies like Netflix.

And so, mysteriously, by some act of God, the Liberal Party found itself adopting the same position as Mr Murdoch. I wonder why?

LEIGH SALES: So, in summary: Malcolm Turnbull is on the attack in Parliament this afternoon, making the point that I made, that: is it a white elephant? Your response, in a nutshell?

KEVIN RUDD: You changed horse in mid-stream. What we had planned and began to rollout was perfectly designed for this nation's needs: fibre optic to the home, to the premises, to the shop, to the school, to the hospital.

You cut that off. Frankly, the changes lie all on your head.



    He has a couple of points. It would have been a lot easier though if Telstra had been split into two companies. Politics and self interest got in the way of that logical step. And Australia is left with the proverbial 'dogs breakfast'!

      Have to agree that Telstra should have been split, that corporation has a hell of a lot of fiscal pain in this country, so has Murdoch and Abbott and the ditherer we all know as our present Prime Minister.

      Yes Telstra should have been split up way back when. Also if the Howard government didn't nix Telstra's plan for a full FTTN deployment in 2007 (Business groups were asking for the government to step in and assist financially with the rollout but then Comms minister, senator Helen Coonan said no because ADSL2+ was readily available and spending $5 billion would be a waste of time)...we would be at a point where households could upgrade to FTTC or FTTP at reduced price and Australia would be moving forward

      Instead...we have this rubbish of the NBN (since Abbott and Turnbull never liked the full FTTP project and proceeded to destroy it) and big winner was Telstra (since they effectively doubled dipped - got paid by Labor to rip out the copper network and take out their pits (which needed to be upgraded in some areas) and then the LNP paid them to lay new copper and maintain the network

        the LNP paid them to lay new copper and maintain the network

        Don't know about that. From memory, the Coalition didn't pay Telstra to lay new copper. They bought the network back and are now laying copper themselves.

        But there is so much BS going on now I fear downing in doo-dah trying to keep up with this any more.

      The argument against splitting Telstra is that no foreign investor would buy just the customers, and not the infrastructure.
      But the argument for it was that a substantial component in the infrastructure was tax-payer built, and that keeping the infrastructure government owned allowed the government to do things like supply awesome high speed broadband to the country.
      Now we've got the NBN co, paying Telstra to use cables and pits that taxpayers funded in the first place. This is the sort of double-dipping the coalition would rip in to Labor for if the roles were reversed.
      Now we have an ACCC ruling that Mobile networks dont have to be shared, so if it ends up that 5g is this super superior network, we're either going to have to pay Telstra for it, or Tax payers through the NBN Co will be paying for it.

    For all the trouble Labor has caused when they were in power and the fiasco with the Energy supply in SA Rudd would be better off keeping his mouth shut.

      Even NZ could see the importance of Fibre to the Home. How is it that Malcolm could not.
      Remember when he came back from Singapore and proclaimed they use Ethernet to the premises. What happened even to that?
      This will haunt MT forever.

      No, Rudd should not keep quiet about the LNP botching things up even worse..

      What on earth are you babbling about? Where does energy supply in SA even come into this argument? And in what way is the current issue with power in SA (high power prices resulting from large service charges from the network provider, which was privatised by the previous Liberal state government) related to Kevin Rudd?

    Rudd is a pompous ass, but he's right. I have the FTTP 100/40 version of the NBN - the Labor version. It's utterly brilliant. It always works, all the time, at the speeds that I pay for. Unlike my previous Telstra Cable connection which basically stopped working every time it rained (and was only fixed after 2 years of complaining, then broke again within a year!).

    The LNP deliberately sabotaged the NBN precisely so they could hang it around Labor's neck. Virtually everyone in the industry told Abbott and Turnbull what would happen to it and we were maligned for it, now they have to own the mess they've made.

      Tony and Malcolm pandered to the forces within their party. It is as simple as that.
      Now they try to blame someone else for it. These guys must watch out as they will soon lose peoples ear. John Howard found out what that was about.

      The Rudd government got the technology right, but let's not beat around the bush here, the way they actually set up NBN Co was a shemozzle that substantially blew the cost out way more than it needed to be, with 5 or 6 layers of contractors and subcontractors that all cost money. We were getting the best technology, but it was costing way more than it should have. Then Abbott and Turnbull come along and instead of doing the smart thing, and saying "okay we'll continue with FTTP but we'll rearrange NBN Co so it costs less money", they go ahead and change the technology completely to an inferior solution and completely screw it up.

      Would Liberal have proposed the alternative FTTN solution if Labor's FTTP solution didn't have a cost blowout? I dunno...they probably would have anyway, because apparently politicians are allergic to actually admitting the opposing party actually had a good idea. Ultimately, what we've been stuck with is just a joke.

      In a way, Labor have themselves to blame, because Abbott won that 2013 election not off the back of anything he or the Liberal party did, but largely because Labor were tearing themselves apart from the inside...constant infighting, changes in leadership (first Rudd, then Gillard, then Rudd again), bad press from projects like the insulation scheme and so on. People voted for Liberal because they were sick of Labor's bullshit and they seemed the lesser of two evils - and unfortunately, the NBN itself, even though it was discussed at length and was a hot topic leading up to that election, didn't really factor in to many's voters minds when it came time to number the boxes.

        "constant infighting". They most definitely lost the election due to this and the consequence, a change in power and a change in plan for the NBN (even though there was no need for change) costing us.

        You make a good point - if the Labor NBN roll out was going 'well' (even by fairly low standards), it would have been a lot more difficult for the Liberals to justify changing it so much.

          I disagree, all it would honestly take for the Libs is them to have *a* plan to disagree. Labor and Liberals have both dissolved to the point of simply disagreeing on principle with each other than on factual basis. If this were about fact rather than principle, we wouldn't even be having a discussion about the NBN due to the protracted, long term costs the NBN copper version is due to incur on the public.

            Annoyingly there was also a report that stated that over time the FTTP delivery costs were dropping and the install rate was increasing. It looked bad to start (and cost more than anticipated) but there is a ski-jump type curve where initial work is super expensive then it becomes progressively cheaper as tech improves, people are more trained up and administration of planning overheads are reduced.

            You're right of course, it all seems to be about opposing everything for the sake of opposing (and I think both parties are just as bad as each other). My point was more along the lines of that, even though wile the labor plan was better, if the roll-out was at least remotely on time and on budget then it would have been unpopular for the liberals to have changed it. Obviously what the liberals are doing is very bad, and very open to criticism, I just agreed with the point that, despite their better plan, Labor wasn't exactly delivering the NBN as advertised.

            Short answer: they're all shit.

        Well put. It wasn't just the infighting, Rudd simply wasn't a PM even when he had the job.

        During his first round as "PM", Gillard did more in her acting role and Rudd did simply because his presence in the actual country was an increasingly rare occurrence.

        Till this day, I still think Rudd consciously threw the 2013 election as an act of revenge against his own party for daring to remove him from PM and delay his pre-determined life plan.

        My gosh it's a gigantic "one in a multi-generation" infrastructure project and it had barely got off the ground when the LNP lied about doing it better and cheaper. And up until several months before the 2013 election the LNP leadership was adamant that ADSL2+ was good enough for everybody.

      The Liberals purposely sabotage a major infrastructure project just to rub Labor’s name through the mud? No way, that never happens.

      Oh wait, that’s exactly what they do. Hell even look at the Sydney Monorail, a lame duck for 25 years because the liberal government who ideologically opposed it changed the route, leaving it going nowhere.

    Sick of the lies of this current government. Straight out lying about why NBN is a complete joke, liberal screwed what was a perfectly great project,end of story. Turnbull and crew are 100 percent to blame for the complete shambles of the current state of this network.

    Rudd may have been a Sociopath to work for, but he had the countries interests in mind when he was Prime Minister, he initiated quite a few projects including the NBN. The deaths caused by the insulation bungle were a tragedy, but if they didn't use that liner in the ceilings of houses it would have been OK.

      The experts all told us this would happen and its happened. When you put vested interests before greater good, as Turnbull is doing again with NEG then we all loose out.

    Whether or not the original ALP model would've succeeded became moot after the LNP completely stuffed the NBN.

    I have a few Liberal friends that voted for Turnball and they all have major complaints about their NBN installation and service. Many of them blame labour. When I show them evidence like Fairfax articles that point to Turnball and Abbott, many of them are really gob smacked and cannot believe they have done this. I had forgotten about the Murdoch link, so I'm gobsmacked again...

    Been banging on about this for years, so glad someone in mainstream media has called them out. The Fraudband policy was even launched at the Foxtel studios. You could tell they'd slow the NBN down to a point where we'd need to rent Foxtel's cables. Our entire country has been screwed by these puppets, this could have been our nations greatest infrastructure project that provided education options to an entire nation, rich and poor. Our entire nation would have benefited from the increased knowledge and communication but the Libs had to screw it up as well.

    Changed horse, if only... changed jockey, changed the rules, changed path, changed milestones, changed finishing line. It was a completely different race when they took over the reins.

    Labor trying to implement the NBN with FTTP using change from the petty cash tin (BS initial estimated installation costs) was never going to work, unfortunately when the Liberal/National government came into power the whole process was too far down the road to kill the project and had to bandit a hacked out solution that wasn't going to continue to cost the earth...
    When hearing some NBN installs are costing $90k for one premises it sounds like they to have screwed it royally... not surprising.... they are all freaking useless. This is what happens when no one has accountability. It's been a dogs breakfast from the start and continues to be that way.
    5G will be in soon to replace it all anyway and before all you scream "latency", you need a wakeup call... most of the home users don't give 2 hoots if it's 5ms or 100ms... I get 90-100Mbps down and 44Mbps up when using 4G. The acceptable connection for the NBN will be 25Mbps... down, good luck getting anything close to reasonable up... the government has no interest in up speeds...

    Now if you pipe up about "contention" on mobile data, look up how many people are suffering contention issues on their brand new NBN connections... at night their 25Mbps connection struggles and people are lucky to get 5Mbps... I'm not talking about you lucky ones that actually got FTTP (BTW you suck).
    Australia is massive... why does this always need to be reminded to people... we have the same population as a county like Taiwan (~600k) they are a teeny little island compared to ours...

    Ahh I feel refreshed... thanks for reading, have a nice day :)

      5G will be in soon to replace it all anyway

      From a engineering perspective this is not a logical solution, and not for latency or speed/bandwidth issues either - fixed services just don't need to be wireless. There are good arguments for keeping the finite spectrum available for genuinely mobile applications (or for very remote areas), whereas a well-engineered wired network (FTTP *cough* *cough*) to service a stationary building in a city with otherwise decent infrastructure should be the preferred solution.

      why does this always need to be reminded to people

      Because like other issues, the NBN sparks a lot of emotion and many seem to think with said emotion rather than taking a step back and taking in the complete picture.

      You can even see in the comments that some still hold to the conspiracy that Murdoch killed the NBN for protect his monopoly on Foxtel.

      Besides being childish, Murdoch doesn't even have a monopoly on Foxtel. News Corp owns only 50% and even then that is only because 25% was gained by purchasing Consolidated Media Holdings over a decade ago.

      When created, News Corp only owned 25% of Foxtel, hence the "Fox" part. From day one, 50% of Foxtel has always been owned by Telstra (hence the "Tel" part).

      What many don't accept because it doesn't line up with the conspiracy is that if the NBN went forward, Telstra would have died but News Corp would have been unfazed as someone (like Stan or Netflix) would have to buy content streaming licenses from News Corp anyway.

      Instead, many have even gone as far to make it look as though Foxtel is a key element to Murdoch when in reality it is peripheral at best and disposable at worst.

        And who were some of the largest shareholders of Telstra you ask...? You don't have to look any farther than that house on/in the hill!

        Foxtel now makes millions from leasing its cables to NBN Co. If we had gone full fiber then it would have lost Millions and its network rendered obsolete. 50% or 100% it doesn't matter they still pushed their NBN lie.

      5G will be in soon to replace it all anyway and before all you scream "latency", you need a wakeup call... most of the home users don't give 2 hoots if it's 5ms or 100ms... I get 90-100Mbps down and 44Mbps up when using 4G. The acceptable connection for the NBN will be 25Mbps... down, good luck getting anything close to reasonable up... the government has no interest in up speeds...

      The mobile spectrum cannot and never will be able to support a nations internet backbone. The radio spectrum is severely limited. The light spectrum of fibre is not.

      The only reason you get those speeds on mobile is because its not populated. You put everyone home internet connection on that and those speeds will drop like lead.

      Education is a wonderful thing: https://nbnmyths.wordpress.com/why-not-wireless/

      I am struggling with understanding where we are with broadband delivery. But given your comment on 4g speeds, why shouldn’t I simply ignore NBN at home and pair my iPhone (plenty of data allowance) to all my home devices such as laptop, tv, tablets, etc? Seems to make sense.

    I really wish K Rudd would disappear. A nasty little man (acknowledged as much by ALP) who has got it in for Turnbull for not backing him in his tilt at the UN prize. The expression in the photo above says it all.
    Some interesting points that some of the respondents seem to be ignoring. The original NBN was going to cost us (taxpayers) over $100 billion - with the 'butchered' version about 1/2 that.
    To pay its way, end users need to be on the higher speed plans and paying $100+ per month. Guess what, a lot of households don't have that sort of money to throw around after paying their power and water bills.
    As for Kikadik's flippant comments about the debauched 'insulation project', another of K Rudds weekend thought bubbles - families lost son's, so shut your stupid mouth.

      families lost son's, so shut your stupid mouthDude, what is your damage? I made it clear that it was a tragedy that could have been avoided. Take a breath and think before you vent your spleen. Also, where did you get the hundred billion figure from? Seems like you plucked that from your proverbial to me.

      Do you expect that the sewerage system makes a profit or do you just expect the government to build one that works? Do you expect a highway from Sydney to Brisbane to make a profit or do you just expect the government to build one?

      If I had FTTP I could work from home and the money I would save would easily pay the $100+ per month.

      And, as sad as it is, the deaths of the roofing installers was because unscrupulous independent companies didn't bother to train nor equip their staff correctly.

        Not rubbing salt in the wound, more making a point. I have 100/40. If I work from home, I get MORE work done than at work because my internet is faster than the work network (in a non NBN area of course, and a smaller office so isn’t going to get a dedicated fibre line).

    Urgh. Let's break this own.

    Well, Leigh, you know as well as I do that's a grossly unfair question

    Even after all these years, Rudd still deems any question critical of him as unfair. I don't think Rudd will ever see the self-reflection he is over due for. He's got his own world planned and everyone around him is just incidental and disposable.

    because it would be that model which actually delivered the revenue stream long-term to make the NBN financially sustainable. And it was that on which it was modelled.

    If that was the case, clearly it did not matter as the implementation didn't match. What happened was the roll out became very politically motivated.

    It's I think a matter of historical record that News Limited did not want the National Broadband Network

    I don't know what is more sad. The fact Kevin is still bitter than his predicted life plan has been derailed because people refused to stand for his BS or that he still blames everyone else for his own problems.

    In his final days, he ran with the conspiracy that Rupert Murdoch was out to get him and even lied about the size of News Corps' paper ownership.

    That false narrative didn't work then and the fact Rudd is still running with this shows he thinks us idiots.

    Here's the reality: the NBN was actually crippled by Labor's own management. It wasn't costed properly, it wasn't even managed correctly, and it quickly became a political game piece.

    When the 2013 election game, the Australian public were sick of Labor's behaviour and a figure head (Rudd) who basically acted like his s**t didn't stink thus voted in protest to get rid of Labor.

    Don't get me wrong, both the opportunity and the capacity existed in the Coalition to save the NBN but the choice was not made purely out of spite and so they didn't have to credit Labor for anything.

    It's not some Murdoch oriented conspiracy. The NBN was just poorly managed and everyone saw that Rudd was a condescending skeleton warrior.

      If people were sick of the ALP at the 2013 election it was only because the Murdoch press had trained them that way. You forget we didn't have a recession during the GFC because of the work of Rudd and his goverment. (If Abbot had been in power he would've used it as an opportunity to strip worker rights and to cut tax for the high end of town).

        You forget we didn't have a recession during the GFC because of the work of Rudd and his goverment.

        You mean the stimulus packages (both rounds) that were possible thanks to the Howard Surplus, effectively buying time?

        I didn't forget, I'm just not selective nor do I drag in axillary topics to try and distract from the subject.

          Yes and no. It's true that Howard had the budget in surplus following a decade of unprecedented mining growth combined with the sell-off of public assets. Unlike countries like Norway (which put their windfall into a future's fund which in Norway's case now generates a lot of their revenue) Howard decided instead to "buy" votes leaving future government's to "suffer".

          Also it's not an auxiliary topic - they are in fact related. Howard could've used the windfall as an opportunity to pause and develop a vision for the country that should've included a full-fibre NBN but he failed.

      he ran with the conspiracy that Rupert Murdoch was out to get him

      Well I mean the papers literally portrayed him as a Nazi.

      It's never happened to me but I think if somebody photoshopped me as a Nazi on a major newspaper I'd probably think they were out to get me.

      The papers at the time were completely objective and reasonable. https://i.imgur.com/bjdYPUB.jpg

        So a juvenile photoshop image is a sign of intent?

        If you are going to imply a link between the 2013 election and News Corp, are you also going to imply a link between the 2007 election and the CFMEU?

        If not, then it's high time to drop that conspiracy or at least be consistent.

          are you also going to imply a link between the 2007 election and the CFMEU?

          Nope. CFMEU don't own national newspapers. Their scope of influence is significantly smaller than News Corp.

          I get it. You love Rupert. I have been on Gizmodo long enough to know that whenever this comes up you will defend him like you're being paid to.

          Anybody else can clearly see that News Corp used their massive influence to try and sway public opinion.

            I have been on Gizmodo long enough to know that whenever this comes up you will defend him like you're being paid to.

            That is your rhetoric. Not being paid. Not defending him. Haven't even read a News Corp paper since 1997.

            In fact, as my posts show I have a tendency to remove distractions from topics and shine a light on those who are the actual subject.

            Anybody else can clearly see that News Corp used their massive influence to try and sway public opinion.

            No, Dolley. You only want it to look that way. But people like me completely displace you because I keep bringing the facts in and taking an insignificant old man out of the equation and shine the light on the politicians in question.

            Discussion over. There is no conspiracy. And this is the last I'm responding to you on this topic. I have better things to do than entertain a dead, rotten corpse of a distraction held up by those still in denial over the 2013 election outcome. Including yourself.

              Settle down, folks. Civil debate please.

                May apologies, Campbell.

                While I am getting better at taking the heat, some personalised attacks - likes Dolley here implying I have an affinity and am even paid by News Corp - just trigger me.

                At the same time though, even if I remain civil, it seems all I have to do is state the truth (or simply down vote factually wrong posts or bad behaviour) and suddenly the thread become chaotic.

                Again, I myself should not be taking the bait as I have done here. But at the same time, I should be able to express a view without being placed into false moderation because what I say (regardless of factuality) is unpopular.

                  And yes I agree with you that you say things "regardless of factuality".

              Thank you, the only comment that seemed genuine was when you wrote. "And this is the last I'm responding to you on this topic."

              Firstly, you don't get to declare "discussion over". Doesn't work like that.

              The statement "News Corp used their massive influence to try and sway public opinion." is no more of a conspiracy than the moon landing.

              I mean these are all actual things that NewsCorp newspapers said on their front page:
              - Kick this mob out (referring to the current Labor government).
              - Tony's Time
              - Australia Needs Tony

              I don't understand how you can possibly think that is anything but telling people who to vote for.

              I didn't say that Labor lost the election because of that.I am not in denial about the outcome. It lead to one of the worst Prime Ministers Australia has ever had but I don't for a second deny that it happened or that it was caused by in-fighting within Labor (that the Libs have now also indulged in).

              The fact that you think you "displace" me? Again that's not how discussion works.

              Also for what it's worth I didn't say that you were a paid shill, I said you act like one. I don't doubt that you do all this for free. I think you should be paid for the work you do for NewsCorp. Know your worth.

    Yeah those surpluses gained through the richest decade in history on the back of China's rapid expansion.

    That's what surpluses are for... If not for stretching you through the bad times, then a surplus is otherwise a sure fire example of being overtaxed.

    Howard likely wasn't an economic genius, just look back to his time as treasurer for evidence of that. It's far more likely that he was just lucky to reign at the right time in history.

    Too bad, too late to discuss history ..... get on with life, get over it you nit-pickers on this site.
    Inconsistent waffle about, if, maybe, might, could, should have, all un-blessedly BORING..!!
    Rudd, one of Australia's worst prime ministers now crawling out of his hole to suck on more crap.
    Do something positive Rudd, solve some of the real problems facing Australians while you chomp on your obscene monetary income, cut taxes, destroy paedophiles, rapists, murderers, speeding, road raging idiots, and all the corrupt judges and lawyers...!!!!

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