Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher took to the stage to talk about the NBN during the CommsDay Summit on Tuesday. But what really made his speech stand out was invoking a Soviet tractor production analogy.
Paul Fletcher talks about the NBN
The point of the speech seemed to be to set the record straight when it comes to the NBN. At least from the perspective of the Liberals. Last month the Coalition announced it would upgrade half of the NBN network to full fibre after years of stating FTTP is too expensive, choosing to utilise old HFC and copper wiring for the rollout instead. And it still managed to go over budget.
The speech looks at the alleged “political myths” around the Liberal’s treatment of the NBN as well as the “The operational and financial reality” of the network. Fletcher also looks at the economic value of the NBN.
During the speech Fletcher took particular issue with the perspective that this announcement was a back flip, saying the government has delivered upgrades as needed.
“In fact our plan since coming to government in 2013 has been to roll out the network as quickly as possible at the least cost, and then deliver upgrades as demand emerged,” he said. “Our 2016 Statement of Expectations for NBN set out these steps clearly, and directed NBN Co to ensure all its technologies were upgradeable.”
The Communications Minister also placed the blame of late delivery at Labor’s feet.
“When we came to Government in 2013, the FTTP rollout had been going for three years – and it was already two years behind schedule and more than 83 per cent behind NBN’s own Corporate Plan targets. The company had consistently set itself targets that it could not and did not achieve – and spent billions of taxpayer funds in doing so.”
This is where it gets weird
This sniping at the opposition isn’t exactly surprising. That’s politics, baby. But the speech soon took an odd turn. Try to stay with me here.
Fletcher proceed to quote an opinion piece by Shadow Communications Minister, Michelle Rowland, about the latest fibre announcement. He quoted these two sections:
“Mike Quigley, the first chief executive of NBN Co, is a passionate, cerebral and methodical engineer whose ultimate loyalty is to reason and logic. He understood well before others that the long-term economics of a full-fibre NBN would not only prevail, but serve the taxpayer and the country well.”
“Senator Conroy and Mike Quigley possessed a far deeper understanding of not only the technology, but critically, the economics of the network they were building and the future demand associated with it.”
Directly after these quotes he launched into a deeply weird analogy where he seems to be mimicking Labor in the context of Soviet tractor production under Stalin’s Five Year Plan during the 1920s.
“These comrades are heroes of tractor production with extraordinary vision! Never mind that we made 80% fewer tractors than our first five-year plan promised!!” Fletcher said.
“We are going to redouble the heroic efforts of all comrades in patriotic service to our motherland and our glorious revolution!!!
“Our next five-year plan will deliver so many more tractors that we will prove forever the superiority of our economic system!!!!”