Nauseous politics and the NBN

James Riley
Editorial Director

If it was ever possible to conduct a reasonable discussion about the National Broadband Network without getting attacked by ideologues, those days are long past.

Debate on broadband issues has been hijacked by the overbearing opinions of zealots of every stripe, who attack anything that does not exactly mirror their own view of the world.

The aim of this game is to attack, attack, and attack some more, with the sole purpose of discrediting anyone who dares to float a contrary idea, or express a non-conformist opinion.

This is usually expressed via social media, a place where people to go to forget themselves. We all love Twitter, for example, but depending on the subject, it can quickly turn vile. The NBN is one of those subjects.

What a shame that such an attack on one of’s columnists Mark Gregory came from Communications Day. Given the 20-year history of excellent industry coverage from that highly-regarded telecoms news journal, it seemed jarringly low-brow.

It is all the more annoying that CommsDay columnist Rod Bruem also felt at ease with misrepresenting a public exchange he and I had on this same issue.

This is the kind of nonsense, really, that kills public discussion. It is not constructive. It does not bring value.

Bruem has it in his head that Mark Gregory is hiding something. That because Gregory has provided advice to politicians and to governments over many years, there must be some kind of sleight of hand going on.

He is specifically annoyed that Mark Gregory does not publicly disclose on his articles that he has provided advice on broadband issues to the former communications minister Stephen Conroy and to Kevin Rudd.

For the record: Mark Gregory is an academic who works as a senior lecturer at RMIT University.
He has provided advice to many politicians and their advisers from across the political spectrum – including from the Liberal Party, Nationals, Labor, the Greens and independents.

He has also provided advice to public servants from departments and agencies at federal and state levels.

He has not been paid for this advice. He is not a consultant. He has provided technical advice on his area of expertise when asked.

Mark Gregory’s is not affiliated to any political party. His views are well-known. He believes there is an urgent need for a ubiquitous fibre access network in Australia as a critical piece of national infrastructure.

He has written on this issue widely for years, including in Business Spectator, The Australian, and more recently

Finally, Mark Gregory is entitled to his views. I am entitled to publish them. I am completely comfortable with the level of disclosure about Mark Gregory.

I have been well aware of Mark Gregory’s view of the world. I am also well aware of Rod Bruem’s view of the world. I know his views well enough to offer him a columnist role at once he had finished his role as a corporate affairs spokesman at Telstra (earlier this year).

In a single column last week, Bruem attacked Australia’s most influential commentator Alan Kohler for not conforming with the Bruem view of the world fast enough, he attacked Mark Gregory for the reasons above, he attacked me for apparently deceiving my readers, and he attacked Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton for advocating for fibre to the home broadband.

In fact, he seemed to attack Laurie Patton simply for being Laurie Patton.

So much attacking. How very tedious and uninspiring.

Both Rod Bruem and Communications Day editor Petroc Wilton were contacted for this story but did not return calls.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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