Turnbull 'virtually invented the internet'
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott describes his team as very strong, particularly Malcolm Turnbull, who he says 'virtually invented the internet in this country'.PT0M45S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2p1lg 620 349 June 28, 2013
Despite what Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says, Malcolm Turnbull is not the man who "virtually invented the internet in this country". Even if it was a joke, it's a bad one and it's wrong.
Mr Abbott made the comments in a speech to his parliamentary colleagues on Friday morning. He said he had a very "strong" front bench but that there was "one person who I particularly want to mention".
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott during a meeting with Coalition members in the party room at Parliament House. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
"We have a strong and credible broadband policy because the man who has devised it, the man who will implement it, virtually invented the internet in this country. Thank you so much Malcolm Turnbull," he said.
How very, very wrong. It's not always easy to figure out whether Mr Abbott is joking about something or not. Tech site ZDNet reported the news straight while others said he was joking. (You can watch the video in this article and decide for yourself as to whether Mr Abbott was joking.)
Mr Abbott's comments got a laugh from his colleagues, but geeks everywhere have reacted strongly to them, just like when they reacted strongly to Mr Abbott's comments on the 7.30 Report when he said he was "no Bill Gates" or a "tech head".
One of these men helped bring the web to Australia. Can you guess which one? Photo: Andrew Meares/Supplied
"Yes, Turnbull was one of the first Australian businesspeople to appreciate the commercial potential of the internet, and made a killing out of it. But he did not virtually invent anything," wrote blog larvatusprodeo.net.
"Tony Abbott should avoid further embarrassment by not opening his mouth ever again on anything related to telecommunications. He’s had years to get it right, and he still has no clue."
"Let me clarify something for you, Mr Abbott: You might have been joking, but the joke wasn't funny. Malcolm Turnbull didn't invent squat in terms of the internet in Australia," wrote tech blog Delimiter.
"Maybe someone should stop Opposition Leader Tony Abbott from talking about internet from now until forever," wrote tech blog Gizmodo.
They're right to get worked up. If anyone can be credited with "inventing" — or for a better word "bringing" — the internet to Australia it is Geoff Huston and his colleagues. Mr Huston is one of the founders of the Australian Academic Research Network (AARNET), and now the chief scientist at the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC).
Under AARNET, Mr Huston and his colleagues connected Australian universities to each other and other universities in other countries - well before Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull got involved. They then helped private companies such as Internode get in on the action to provide a service to ordinary Australians.
To make matters more awkward for Mr Abbott, Mr Huston is one of the experts who dubbed the Opposition's NBN plan a "lemon".
"... Quite frankly, 25Mbps in 10 years' time – that speed is going to look like what a [dial-up] modem looks like to us today. Too little, too slow, too backwards," Mr Huston told me in April.
According to Mr Huston, it was the night of June 23, 1989 when Robert Elz of the University of Melbourne and Torben Nielsen of the University of Hawaii completed the connection work that brought the internet to Australia. It was a 56 Kbps satellite circuit and the Australian end used a Proteon P4100 router.
The only involvement Malcolm Turnbull had with the internet in Australia was being one of the directors and key investors in internet service provider OzEmail through the 1990s. He was later its chairman. Even then, as pointed out by tech blog Delimiter, he was primarily involved in its financial management. In no way did he "invent" the internet in Australia. In fact those who truly "invented" the internet are in the US.
You could say Malcom Turnbull helped bring the internet to ordinary Australians with his investment in OzEmail. But he did not - I repeat - did not invent it in Australia.
If Mr Abbott is interested in who really brought the internet to Australia he should read the very good e-book "AARNet: 20 Years of the Internet in Australia 1989–2009" by journalist Glenda Korporaal.
This reporter is on Facebook: /bengrubb