'Baseless attacks' by NBN Co cronies see resignations at Internet Australia

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Outgoing Internet Australia chair Anne Hurley has grown tired of defending herself and Internet Australia against baseless attacks from people with questionable agendas. Laurie Patton, who is also stepping down, reports.

IN CASE, like me, you don't normally read Communications Day, this letter from Anne Hurley was published just over a week ago.

Editor/publisher Grahame Lynch, a long time fawning supporter of NBN Co and its flawed FTTN strategy, and a relentless critic of Internet Australia couldn't help but add his two cents worth, as you'll see. The truth is, we took the unusual step of releasing draft board minutes in order to counter false claims being circulated relating to the decisions of a number of directors not to stand for re-election at the upcoming AGM.

In my case, I'm incredibly proud of the impact we've had highlighting the need for a 21st Century NBN. At every stage, I've been mindful of the supportive feedback received from Internet Australia (IA) members and the general public and guided by the member survey that overwhelmingly opposed the deployment of FTTN.

When I joined IA three years ago, the official policy favoured a return to a full-fibre NBN. Approximately two years ago we began calling for the adoption of FTTdp. At that time, neither the Government nor the Opposition had embraced this new technology option. Fast forward to today and NBN Co has begun moving to FTTdp, although more by stealth than with an admission that FTTN is not working out as they had expected. The ALP is, likewise, showing signs of a move in the same direction. 

IA's NBN policy has never been "pro-ALP", as some have suggested — it has only ever been pro-Australia and based on expert advice from the board and the membership.

Until earlier this year, when Anne Hurley took over as chair, everything I did as CEO in publicly advocating IA’s NBN policy was approved by an enthusiastic and highly supportive George Fong. Whatever has been the board’s official policy from time to time has been what we have argued. The same is the case with Anne now. As she has frequently stated, Anne joined the IA board because she supported our efforts in advocating for a better NBN solution.


Anne Hurley (Image via

Laurie Patton and George Fong announced to a board meeting on 24 August that they would not be standing for re-election. Shortly after that, I advised the board that I would not be seeking re-election. The decisions and announcements were made before Tuesday’s events and are unrelated.

In addition to we three, Chris Disspain and Chris Winter have advised they will not be standing. Again for their own reasons and unrelated to Tuesday. I hope others also consider their positions.

I’m leaving not because of any pressure or any matters which were the subject of your articles. I am leaving because I didn’t join IA to spend inordinate amounts of time defending myself and the organisation against baseless attacks from people who clearly have questionable agendas or are pushing someone else’s barrow.

I also want to correct all imputations in your many articles that I changed the direction of IA when I took on the chair role. The fact is that the IA Board, under the incredible leadership of George Fong as chair, had made the decision before I arrived to revitalise the organisation (then called ISOC-AU) and to advocate for a 21st Century NBN. Without George’s vision and commitment, IA would likely still be a largely invisible and silent organisation. The organisation is under concerted attack right now because of the success in implementing George’s vision.

One thing that has come out of all this destructive activity by others is an outpouring of support for Laurie and me as the main targets of the attacks — and I thank them all for that. As for Michael Malone, a person I once called a friend, his performance yesterday was an embarrassment to himself and a poor reflection on the board of NBN Co, where so many of us had hoped he’d be the voice of reason.

In my role as CEO of Comms Alliance, I played a major role in the broadband policy to drive Australia’s digital future. My passion for that remains.

I am leaving IA but I am not resiling from my commitment to work for the broadband infrastructure that will see Australia rise up the ladder of global connectivity and open up all the opportunities of the digital economy that other countries are harnessing way before us. It may be yours and others nightmare, but I will – and I know Laurie will also – continue to advocate for finding the non-political bi-partisan solution for fixing the mess that is the current NBN. 

COMMS DAY EDITOR’S NOTE: It is worth noting that members of Internet Australia did not receive draft minutes of the August 24 meeting until yesterday and the first they knew of the decision of Anne Hurley, Laurie Patton and George Fong to step down from the board next month was in written replies to emails from Michael Malone and Bevan Slattery circulated to the membership list on Tuesday.

Laurie Patton is Executive Director of Internet Australia, the NFP peak body representing internet users and a chapter of the global Internet SocietyYou can follow Laurie on Twitter @LJPatton.

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