Remember When The Turnbull Staffer Said This?

The sacking of SBS reporter Scott McIntyre after a series of controversial tweets with respect to ANZAC Day has certainly stirred up a whirlpool of reaction, and fired up the free-speech debate in Australia.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull got involved, making sure that McIntyre’s tweets were seen by his boss, SBS managing director Michael Ebeid.

“Mr Turnbull, who has described the comments as “despicable”, drew them to the attention of SBS’s managing director Michael Ebeid.

Now, whether or not Turnbull directly requested/required/suggested the sacking of McIntyre isn’t really the point. Personally, I doubt that he did, but his actions did put McIntyre and his employment directly in the firing line of SBS management.

“But in his capacity as a reporter employed by SBS he has to comply with and face the consequences of ignoring the SBS social media protocol.

Maybe – but ignoring the content of the tweets for just a moment, all McIntyre was doing was expressing his view – who are SBS – (and Turnbull, for that matter) – to decide what is and isn’t an appropriate level of free speech?

Is expressing free speech a breach of SBS social media policy?

On the evidence – apparently so, and that’s a big concern. Turnbull’s basic view of the matter was that the tweets were “offensive”.

Perhaps they were, perhaps they weren’t – that’s the point of free-speech – not everyone is going to agree with what we say.

McIntyre certainly wasn’t rude in his tweets, he just expressed an unpopular opinion.

Boohoo – we all confront unpopular opinions every single day of our lives.

Get over it.

But how far should a public person, or someone representing a public person go when it comes to addressing public issues?

Remember when one of Turnbull’s own staffers said this?

“Nobody challenges your numbers because nobody takes your psychotic rantings seriously. Nobody. Nevertheless they are all wrong. All of them โ€“ you donโ€™t have a clue about the existing deal, much less how it might be modified. Given what you write is a delusional fantasy that exists only in your own mind, you can get fucked.”

Turnbull of course, when it was brought to his attention tried to mop things up neatly:

“Turnbull, the shadow communications minister, addressed the spat on Twitter on Wednesday, posting: “Regret my staffer’s lapse into vulgar Anglo-Saxon in an email to a blogger. Charm remediation has been administered and equanimity restored.””

So apart from an apparent tickle over the wrist with a metaphorical piece of soggy celery, the staffer wasn’t disciplined, and certainly was not separated from his employment.


While the tweets sent by McIntyre were in regard to a much more sensitive subject than that which extracted the definitive expletive from Turnbull’s staffer in 2013, Turnbull has seemingly made sure he was shot down for speaking his mind.

If you are Michael Ebeid, when Malcolm Turnbull – (your boss) – rings you to bring some tweets to your attention, he isn’t ringing you to have a laugh about them – he wants action taken. Why else would he do it? Turnbull saying that it wasn’t up to him is nothing more than semantics, something he is very good at.

You can express an unpopular view, and lose your job. Or you can tell a constituent to “get fucked” and all is sweet.

Whether you agree with the sentiments expressed by McIntyre or not, Turnbull has managed to front up with a double standard that should be explained.

  • Steve Jenkin


    I was the ‘blogger’ on the receiving end of that Staffers rant.

    There are three things about that incident:

    – I’d requested the CVC price used in the Policy for a Copper NBN service. Not only had no other analyst bothered asking for this part of their model, no news outlet reported what had ‘provoked’ the outburst or followed up on what was an _extremely_ sensitive issue for the LNP.

    – Turnbull or his staffer NEVER contacted me, never apologised. There was NO ‘charm remediation’. Again, no news outlet or journalist followed up with this very simple check. Turnbull lied and misled, very deliberately and cynically.

    – My analysis turned out to be conservative. Rather than rantings & delusional as claimed, I’d nailed their bogus numbers well before the election. They’ve already readjusted costings back to the same as full Fibre, while not releasing the numbers that drive this whole idea: Profit and Dividends.

    The question for me over this rather unpleasant affair is the very low interest in real issues by the Mainstream Media and their rather poor and prurient interest in ‘sensational’ topics.

    This was across _all_ Media: nobody asked the simplest of business questions about the NBN nor followed what was a very strong story lead:
    a significant outburst == a very hot issue for them == strong story

    The simplest question that was never asked, by the General Media, the Business Media or the publicly-funded independent arbitrator, the PBO was:
    What’s the Fiscal Budget Impact of the Liberal’s NBN Policy vs ALP’s?

    It’s a stunningly simple answer, requiring NO technical, accounting or economic knowledge.

    It’s the difference in Interest in Bonds raised for NBN Equity injection:
    – LNP Policy was $29.5 billion Equity Funding, and
    – ALP Policy was $30.4 billion.

    This was the _total_ financial difference between the two plans, yet never appeared in any Election materials or Media reports & analysis.

    The Quigley NBN Business Plan had full draw-down by 2017/8 and payback by 2027/8.

    Turnbull has never given a draw-down schedule or payback date.

    Because T’bull promised NBN Co would spend very close to the same budget (~$4B saved, but another $4B wasted on stranded assets) but rolled out faster, the immediate Fiscal Budget Impact would’ve been much higher than the full Fibre plan: more Bonds = more Interest paid.

    At the end of 2013, 10-yr Bond yield was around 3.75%, now it’s under 2.5%.

    For the $900M difference in Public Borrowings between the Policies,
    – in 2013, the WHOLE Fiscal Budget Impact of Turnbull’s Policy was under $35M/year saving, and
    – currently, it’s around a $22M/year ‘saving’.

    Turnbull and his mates haven’t come clean on the full project Fiscal Impact, to 2040 – he deliberately reduced Profits significantly while marginally reducing the public Equity Funding.
    Profits = (Income – Expenses), which the Coalition have never addressed.

    1. not only would NBN Co’s revenue be 33% lower to 2021 according to Turnbull himself [his ARPU chart, misleadingly entitled “Typical Household Bill”] was $62.50/mth vs $95/mth. He’s on record as claiming a ‘saving’ that the Coalition ARPU will be $43/mth/sub lower. An appalling grasp of business and financials. ARPU is a business _Revenue_ figure, not what any Average or Typical subscriber pays. And to make it worse, NBN Co is a wholesaler, it has NO control over what Retailers will charge end-users. Citing _any_ savings to ‘users’ isn’t just bogus, but incorrect and deliberately misleading.

    2. The total Revenue would be lower than the ARPU figure would suggest, because the number of subscribers, the ‘take-up rate’ _will_ be lower for the much poorer copper services. The FTTP service is 1Gbps, derated to 12/1Mbps or 25/5Mpbs, NOT a 100Mbps service.

    Total subs is squeezed from two ends:
    + Low-end subscribers will be actively poached by Mobile 3G/4G Operators for whom avoiding the NBN is more profitable, and
    + High-end subs who need 100Mbps-1000Mbps, low-latency, fast upload speeds and guaranteed access rates, will find substitutes, being lost to NBN Co then, and possibly forever. The top 10%-15% of subs will generate ALL the NBN Co profits. Cutting them off is stunningly stupid, commercially.

    3. Turnbull himself has stated that “Operational Expenses” (OpEx) will be higher for a Copper/Cable FTTN network than pure Fibre.

    APRU is down, massively, Total Income is down more, by potentially 50%, and Operational Expenses are higher for a similar CapEx:
    So how can Turnbull’s bastardised NBN make a Profit, payoff the Public Equity and return Dividends? Only in Upside Down Land.

    It’s ‘Borrowing’, not not ‘Debt’, because the NBN Co business was judged by the ATO as an _investment_, the _only_ FedGov programme to be an Investment, not Expenditure
    But you won’t find that basic difference ever noted by the Coalition, ALP, the PBO or the ANAO who reviewed the PBO’s reports.

    Investments are different in two ways to Expenses:
    – you expect to get your money back [with some Project ‘Risk’] and
    – you get paid _interest_ or dividends on your Equity on top of that.

    These are very basic maths and concepts, seemingly too complex for the entire Australian Media and the ALP. It should’ve been trivial to knock over Turnbull’s boozy BBQ spreadsheet.

    Like Hewson’s over-detailed, over-early “Fight Back” package, the Turnbull Copper NBN should’ve been demolished easily and quickly, becoming yet another Case Study in Political Stupidity.

    That it never did is in itself what I consider to be a major story.

    steve jenkin