Has Conroy not noticed that retail doesn't rely on uber-fast broadband to succeed? It's about retailers selling what people want for prices they want to pay and the connection speed doesn't have to be that great for it to happen. The actual problem is the lack of web presence that he notes - advertising the NBN as a cure-all is typical BS. Even large companies like Harvey Norman never used to list anything on their websites until recently but, like many others still do, instead had a link to "the latest catalogue". How quaint in 2011. In the UK you've been able to order online from large businesses (at your convenience) for years. Retailers here need to learn that the rip the customer off thieving bastard business model has gone.
PS Australia cannot lose it's international competitiveness because it would first need to get some as witnessed by the fact I can buy goods from the US or Europe, get them shipped, pay any taxes and still have change to spare (and plenty of it) over the local price.