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Friday, 15 June 2018 09:59

Don't like the current NBN policy? Then you're a Labor stooge

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At last week's hearing of the joint standing committee on Australia's national broadband network, the NBN, Associate Professor Mark Gregory of RMIT University was repeatedly questioned about his political affiliations, after he had made a fairly robust opening statement.

The bid to cast slurs on a technically competent person, who has been forthright in his views on what is turning out to be one of the great clusterf***s of all time, came from the chairperson of the panel, Sussan Ley, a former minister in the Turnbull cabinet who was forced to resign last year after questions were raised over trips she had made using taxpayer funds.

These comments, indeed this whole exchange, have not been reported. If anything, it illustrates the extent to which the issue of the broadband rollout has become a political issue.

If you speak in favour of the multi-technology mix, then you are a Coalition supporter. If you go the other way, then you are a Labor stooge. The ridiculous nature of this debate is illustrated by some of the statements made by Ley.

She kicked off her accusations with this: "Would you describe yourself as an independent commentator on the NBN network and say that you don't have any political motivation for appearing before the committee today or the frequent media appearances that you undertake?"

And then this: "Would you describe yourself as independent or politically motivated in terms of those appearances and those comments?" referring to comments he had about the disaster known as the NBN.

Then his expertise was questioned by Ley. "Have you worked for the NBN or any vendor or delivery partner that would give you firsthand expertise regarding the rollout of the NBN?"

Referring to a comment that Gregory had made in January, — "the day we can get them out of office; and, hopefully, that will be in 2019" — Ley asked, "what's your understanding about the Labor Party's policy if that occurs?"

And when Gregory said that he did not agree with Labor's NBN policy either, he was again asked: "Could you tell this committee what you don't agree with about the Labor Party's policy?"

The inquisition did not end there. Ley had this next: "Have you ever provided input to the ALP's broadband policy development or any statements made by Labor Party members or ministers?"

Brian Mitchell, the ALP member for Lyons and the only other politician present on the day, offered some solace to Gregory: "I find it very concerning that a person with technical expertise in a particular area is being attacked, for expressing their views publicly, by the government."

When this is the level of discussion on a panel that is supposed to be focusing on improving broadband in this country, is it any surprise that we are where we are?

The writer supports the provision of fibre to the premises as far as is technically feasible and is therefore, by definition, a Labor stooge.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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