Tuesday, 30 April 2013

NBN: Irony in the debate, Turnbull encourages "When all else fails, tell the truth".

"When all else fails, tell the truth", tweeted from Malcolm Turnbull around 06:30 today. crowing about a piece by Peter Martin on Labor having to fess up to budget problems. This had me gob-smacked...

Graham "Richo" Richardson famously said in the early 90's "All Politicians lie".
Delimiter recently published an NBN piece centred around a definition of lying:
There is intelligent awareness of an intent to deceive.
Turnbull isn't just a Politician, he's been a very successful Barrister, another profession where Truth is irrelevant and not sought, but where the whole game is manipulating and redefining "Truth" for the purposes of an argument.

Delimiter yesterday reported on Turnbull's new set of Dorothy Dixers, commenting:

The documentation which the Coalition has produced so far with respect to its policy — ... — far exceeds the extent of policy documentation produced by any political party with respect to a telecommunications policy before an election; including ... in each prior case only brief policy documents, accompanied by a policy launch press conference, were provided, leaving substantial analysis and background briefing information out.
It always seemed to me that releasing a detailed policy, very early was a fraught strategy, since John Hewson's "Fight Back" (400pp, IIRC). It famously became "The worlds longest political suicide note", leading to the Coalition loss then and both political parties since being very circumspect about releasing policies that may be criticised.

I also suspect Turnbull and his team have a comprehensive campaign strategy worked out, and this is part of it.
  • Most of the commentators are individuals with a limited work-rate.
  • The Coalition team can easily overload individuals with "frequent enough" info drops.
  • "throw the dogs a bone" occasionally:
    • Distracts them and allows them to growl, furiously gnaw at the bones and feel very self-important.
    • You can either slam-dunk them later with "you got it wrong" or mea-culpa and walk away.
  • The Coalition get to control the agenda by asking Dorothy Dixers.
  • Most casual readers/observers will be deceived and confuse the new documents with content when they are actually content-free.
Turnbull and team also use a bunch of Barrister tricks to give the appearance of substance without actually saying anything or committing to anything:

  • Don't deal with facts that don't support your case:
    • Deflection, misdirection, denial, ignoring.
  • Tell outrageous lies:
    • "The Big Lie" principle of Nazi Propaganda.
  • Attack is the best form of defence.
    • Personal attack works when you've got nothing else to say.
  • He who strikes first, wins. He who blinks first, loses.
  • Very careful wording of statements to mislead, misinform or invert the real sense.
  • Never quote sources when you don't have to...
For an example, deconstructing one "answer":
Recent plans for FTTN networks in Australia indicated that around 50,000 nodes would be needed...
  • Note no commitment is made on a central cost item. The statement seems like a fact or commitment, but is only a feint. They haven't said "we will built this many".
    • Previously, the Coalition has said "60,000 nodes", does that still hold?
    • My estimates based on sources quoted by CommsDay's Grahame Lynch, are for between 68,000 and 154,000 nodes.
    • Because Turnbull is deliberately withholding critical, central information on the "distance rule", 400m, 800m or in-between, we can't "sanity check" their claims nor contradict those claims.
    • Nor does he qualify what the all-important target access rate will be.
      • The min guaranteed speed and what % of premises will get it.
      • They have committed in 2021 to 90% of FTTN premises, though it could included FTTP, getting 50Mbps.
  • Said by whom, when?
    • No sources are quoted, making it a vacuous and irrelevant statement.
  • How much per node?
    • What costs are included and excluded?
    • What about the Transit network and copper work of reconfiguration & remediation?
    • Realistic & credible "node" estimates varying from $175,000 to $30,000.
      • If words aren't defined, they can mean whatever the authors subsequently wishes... Political weaselling 101.
  • Is it within their budget?
    • Which they haven't specified, only implied is $8.1 billion for some unspecified thing.
  • Nowhere in their plan is the cost of the FTTN roll-out exposed.
    • As above, we must infer from separate facts something is expected to cost around $8 billion.
    • The $20.5 billion CapEx seems to leave out $6 billion in necessary expenditure.
    • But we cannot check that because different costs, while known by the Coalition, are simply not released.
    • The principle of "you can't gainsay us because we haven't said".
  • Equally, they could've referred to the Trujillo Plan with 20,000 nodes.
This was the source of my surprise and amazement. Turnbull is, in Richo's words, doing what all Politicians do, lying.

And from what he says and writes, he's very skilled at not saying anything while giving the appearance of being complete and voluble.

We're not going to ever see Turnbull get forced into a position where he needs to follow Peter Martin's advice: "When all else fails, tell the truth". Turnbull is just too good a player to allow that to happen.

Has he here, like his attempt at Coalition Leader, overestimated his own ability to control the situation and the usefulness of his Bag of Tricks?

If you've ever been conned, manipulated or been subjected to a Big Lie, you'll know the intense emotions that flow in the moment of realisation. If this were "Yes, Minister", we might be hearing Turnbull's advisors saying "That's a Very Brave Decision, shadow minister" about this current strategy.

[Sir Humphrey had a code, "brave" decisions lost votes, "courageous" ones lost elections.]

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