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Stephen Conroy Resigns from Parliament

Monday, 19 Sep 2016

IA

 Calls NBN 'greatest contribution' but may also be remembered for others.

Labor Senator and former communications minister Stephen Conroy called the National Broadband Network his “greatest contribution” in a 20-year politics career he quietly ended last night.

Conroy’s resignation from the Senate appeared to take even his colleagues by surprise; one reason for that might be because he didn’t read out his resignation but rather tabled it, meaning it appeared in Hansard hours later.

Conceived on the back of a napkin on a flight with then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, according to folklore – Conroy has denied this ever occurred – the plan was to bring fibre-to-the-premises to 93 percent of the population.

However, the project was marred by slow progress and overly ambitious targets, and when Labor lost power, they also ceded control of the NBN and its architecture to the Coalition.

“There is nothing more fulfilling and no greater privilege than to be in Government and conceive, create and implement a strategy to deliver the economic and social opportunities that technology brings and reach all Australians wherever they live and whatever their backgrounds,” Conroy said in his resignation speech text.

“The National Broadband Network will remain my greatest contribution.”

Conroy is also likely to be remembered by many for other policy contributions in his former communications portfolio, which were left out of his resignation speech.

These include Conroy’s long pursuit of internet filtering and his public ridiculing of iiNet’s legal defence in the ISP’s initial wrangles with the film industry, which the service provider went on to win.

Conroy unveiled plans for a mandatory internet filter in May 2008 as part of Labor's $125.8 million Cybersafety Plan of the time, and conducted a live pilot in 2009.

The plan was met with fierce opposition from the industry as well as internet users; grassroots activists led a series of protests, while Government web properties were DDoS’ed in retaliation.

It also led to the dubious honour of being named ‘internet villain of the year’.

Mandatory filtering was put on ice in late 2010. It continued to simmer for several more years until Conroy formally axed the idea two years later.

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