Fifield has moved on to the next phase of his life: yesterday he gave a 2368-word speech at a telecommunications conference in Sydney and did not mention the word NBN even once.
He waxed lyrical about 5G, the proposed next telecommunications standard. You can see the entire speech here.
Fifield said: "I believe that the imminent arrival of 5G mobile technology will be a truly revolutionary event in the telecommunications industry. In fact, the arrival of 5G may well be an inflection point not just for the telecoms sector, but for the entire Australian economy."
Fifield did use the word "broadband" twice – but once it was in reference to mobile broadband and on the second occasion he used the variation "wireless broadband". That's all.
He mentioned the activities of his cabinet colleagues Arthur Sinodinos, Fiona Nash and Angus Taylor that would, in his opinion, contribute to what 5G would bring. And he spoke abut the ACMA, the AMTA and other organisations.
Fifield's avoidance of the NBN is particularly significant given that The Australian chose to run stories about the network on its front page this week. When reports that reflect badly on the government appear in this spot in the paper, one can count on a reaction from Canberra.
Until now, The Australian has been largely supportive of the government's multi-technology mix NBN and rarely said a word against it. But on Tuesday, the newspaper's lead story proclaimed that NBN costs were the reason for the slow speeds experienced by customers. That is a fairly old story, as many publications, including iTWire, have been shouting out that fact for at least a few years.
Fifield clearly does not see any mileage in mentioning the NBN. It appears to be becoming as much of a thorn in the flesh for him as it is for consumers who are seeing their speeds fall as they move over to the network.
But there is no way out – unless Fifield chooses to announce an upgrade. That would, of course, be premature given that the end of the rollout has been scheduled for 2020.
Fifield is in a classic Catch-22 situation. As with many other escape routes his government has chosen, what Labor has done in the past gave him a temporary way out. Moving forward.