Senator Stephen Conroy has announced his resignation from parliament in a speech tabled last night that named the NBN as his "greatest contribution".
The speech was tabled but not read out during the debate on the omnibus budget bills last night, meaning many of his peers were shocked to hear the news when it was noticed this morning.
The resignation brings to an end a 20 year parliamentary career during which Conroy has had a lasting impact on the nation's technology and communications landscape.
Conroy said that he wanted to spend more time with his daughter, revealing he had grown to resent the time away from her spent in Canberra.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy for six years while Labor was last in power, Conroy took responsibility for the NBN, internet censorship and the proposed switch to digital television as a complete replacement for analogue.
“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’s speech read. “The National Broadband Network will remain my greatest contribution.”
In his first speech to parliament in 1996 he said the country must confront the challenge of technological change asking: “How do we ensure that all Australians have access to the information carriers that will revolutionise the way we learn, work and enjoy ourselves? More practically, what can we do to make sure Australians have the skills and back up they need to be leaders in developing and providing these new technologies?"
In last night's tabled speech, Conroy said his role had given him the opportunity to meet with “some truly extraordinary people who have all been deeply involved in the internet debate”, including “Professor Larry Smarr, a pioneer of the internet; Professor Jeff Cole whose insights into people and their online habits is world renowned and Larry Irving who created the phrase the Digital Divide.”
Conroy noted that while the internet had been a “boon” for communicating with his family across the globe, he had had to warn his father not to use his real name when commenting online. He also recalled a “particularly vigorous online debate” around a policy he was working on.
“The full force of the internet trolls was raining down and my staff were monitoring the commentary which was very unflattering. They came to me proudly to show me at least one person was defending me staunchly in the face of the abuse,” Conroy wrote.
“The looks on their faces after they handed me the printed versions and I explained that Derek Green was actually my uncle and even worse he lived in England and could not vote for me, was priceless.”
In May this year, Conroy’s offices were raided following the leaking of a number of NBN documents that were circulated to journalists and used by Labor to attack the state of the National Broadband Network rollout.
The documents revealed details of the cost of copper remediation for fibre to the node, problems sourcing power for FTTN, and that some of the Optus HFC assets acquired by NBN were in poor shape.
A further raid last month extended to documents held at the Department of Parliamentary Services at Parliament House on which Conroy asserted parliamentary privilege.