full opinion/analysis by Renai LeMay
3 September 2013
Over the past five months since the Coalition released its rival policy claiming that Labor’s version of the NBN would blow out in cost to $94 billion, Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has claimed on a number of occasions that nobody has stepped forward to refute the Coalition’s costings on the matter. Well, Mr Turnbull: Challenge accepted. This article is that refutation.
If you spend a lot of time around politicians, as I have the unfortunate fate of doing, you will quickly realise that each and every one habitually uses a version of Steve Jobs’ famed Reality Distortion Field to get them through their every day life. People in such positions, at times, really appear to truly believe everything which they say, irrespective of whether it’s objectively true or not, and the strength of their apparent conviction often means that those around them start to believe the same.
In Jobs’ biography, author Walter Isaacson describes a trait which the Apple legend had in this way: “People also had to put up with Jobs’s occasional irrational or incorrect assertions. To both family and colleagues, he was apt to declare, with great conviction, some scientific or historical fact that had scant relationship to reality.” Apple design chief Jony Ive added: “There can be something he knows absolutely nothing about, and because of his crazy style and utter conviction, he can convince people that he knows what he’s talking about.”
Nowhere is this phenomenon more visible in Australian public life than when it comes to Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
I’ve watched Turnbull perform at dozens of press conferences over the past several years since he was appointed to lead the telecommunications portfolio for the Coalition. I’ve listened to, and read, several dozen speeches which the Member for Wentworth has given. And I’ve followed on a daily basis Turnbull’s blog entries, his Twitter posts, and his interviews with the media.
Other followers of Turnbull’s exploits will know well what I am talking about here. Like Jobs, it is common for Turnbull to make a very strong statement which has no basis in reality. He did it several weeks ago on the ABC’s Lateline program when he claimed NBN Co’s upcoming 1Gbps fibre service would cost consumers in the realm of $20,000 per month. He did it in July when he claimed that NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley had been “fired” from his role, when in fact Quigley had signalled his plans to retire. And Turnbull has also consistently been loose with the truth when discussing the various technology platforms to be used in either version of the NBN project.