NBN Co execs to be hauled before Senate committee

NBN Co execs to be hauled before Senate committee

Summary: Acting chairman of the NBN Committee Stephen Conroy has ordered the executive team of NBN Co to appear before the committee tomorrow after the executives again declined an invitation.


Several key NBN Co executives have been ordered to appear before the Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network (NBN) tomorrow, after they once again declined to appear before the committee.

In a press release this afternoon, acting NBN Co chair and former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said that NBN Co's head of strategy JB Rousselot, chief operating officer Greg Adcock, chief technology officer Gary McLaren, and chief financial officer Robin Payne were invited a week ago to appear before the committee.

Although the committee had changed the date to avoid a conflict with an NBN Co board meeting, Conroy said that NBN Co informed the committee that the executives had declined to appear tomorrow.

"Therefore, the committee has issued an order for NBN Co personnel to appear in person at the committee's hearing on December 11," Conroy said.

"It is with regret that the committee has had to issue this summons. It follows another summons issued to NBN Co by the committee last month."

At that hearing, NBN Co's executive chairman Ziggy Switkowski appeared before the committee, and was taken to task by Conroy over the planned changes to the NBN rollout, and the state of Telstra's copper network, which would be used in a proposed fibre-to-the-node model.

Conroy was also highly critical of the appointment of some of the executives who he now seeks to question, including Adcock, who Conroy said was responsible for the delays to the NBN rollout during his time overseeing the Telstra pit and duct remediation.

"I am just seeking to establish whether ... NBN Co have hired the bloke that stalled the rollout to manage the rollout. I would have thought you would have wanted to understand that before you hired somebody," he said.

Conroy also accused Rousselot — who Conroy said shares a boat with Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull — of being sacked from Telstra.

"[Rousselot] started, I understand, a bit higher in the tree, and was so incompetent that they demoted him on a number of occasions. What was his final position at Telstra before he was terminated?" Conroy asked.

"Senator, I do not accept that description of his career. His time at Telstra overlapped my time at Telstra. I was aware of him in the area of the BigPond broadband business and media and content. He is a very skilled financial individual, and knowledgeable," Switkowski said.

In his release today, Conroy said that NBN Co's reluctance to put forward any of its executives is "at odds" with Turnbull's commitment to more transparency at NBN Co.

"The committee is investigating and analysing the Coalition's AU$30 billion broadband policy, and it is expected that NBN Co will cooperate with the committee's work," Conroy said.

It comes as later this week, NBN Co is expected to release a heavily redacted version of its strategic review.

Topic: NBN


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • So what's the penalty for contempt of Parliament in Australia?

    Here in the USA, contempt of Congress is a jailing offense.

    Even if the committee is doing this for purely partisan reasons, I'm guessing that ignoring a summons is a bad idea in Australia too.
    John L. Ries
    • Yes, it's jailable.

      According to the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987, Contempt of Federal Parliament is punishable by up to 6 months' imprisonment and/or up to a $5,000 fine. ($25,000 for corporations; I don't know if that applies if ALL the Execs fail to show up)
      • Next question

        If the Government decided it didn't want to prosecute the case, could the Senate act on its own? I know that the houses of the US Congress and the British Parliament can.
        John L. Ries
  • Maybe they should be jailed

    At least somebody should ask them some tough questions.

    I would like to see the Senate ask them questions about how their network will handle 4K video.

    If a family wants to watch 2 different 4K-streaming 'television channels' (15Mbps each), it can't be done. In fact, the 12Mbps service they're peddling won't even handle one 4K channel.

    Over the next decade, television will move completely to the internet, but the half-baked copper NBN will not handle it. Pity all those 4K televisions selling in department stores.

    The copper NBN won't even handle average consumer demands in 5 years, let alone business use.

    Trying to protect existing broadcasters is a losing prospect. It's like Kodak trying to protect its film business. Broadcasters would be better to leap into the new technology and get a foothold before competitors get too strong.
  • Who's kidding who?

    'Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network'

    That is a joke.

    This committee is just an manifestation of Conroy's denial. He, and the Greens, still haven't worked out that the people voted them out of government. Anyone can see that this committee was formed as some last ditch attempt by Conroy and the Greens to get a public platform where upon they could criticise anything the NBN is doing that they themselves didn't instigate.

    They knew before they started that the results of their witch hunt would have no bearing whatsoever on the future of the NBN under the current government so it was just to appease their revenge fantasies and for their personal gratification and, in true Labor style, hang the expense.

    Come on July when, even with the questionable replacements that will come into the Upper House, the Liberal/Nationals will finally get a chance to govern without the interference of the Green and Labor rabble who are doing anything they can to destabilise the government.
    Gary O'Connor
    • Is it really going to be that easy?

      My understanding is that in July, the coalition will actually be losing a Senate seat and there will be more cross-bench Senators than ever before. Politicians being what they are, I'm guessing that if the Government ends up being wildly popular, it will have an easy time getting bills passed, but otherwise, the cross-benchers will be eager to assert their independence.

      Regardless, the current defiance from the Communications Ministry isn't likely to be better received by the incoming Senate than it is by the current one (human nature being what it is). Things would be different if the Coalition had a majority, but it doesn't and isn't going to get one any time soon.
      John L. Ries
  • I'm impressed.

    @John L.Ries
    If I'm not mistaken about your location, for someone from the USA you have a good grip on what is happening in the Australian government.

    The point is that, after July, the Greens and Labor no longer have the majority in the Upper House and the government will have the opportunity to get some of its ideas passed. It may not be easy but the new members are not driven by the same misguided ideology that the Greens and Labor still believe they have majority support for, even after a severe flogging at the polls.

    Currently the Greens and Labor seem intent on persisting all the bad policies that they instigated while they were in control. Surprisingly, the Greens have been a little more likely to listen to reason than the Labor party but are immoveable on the Carbon Tax which the Australian public voted specifically to have removed.

    Some of the new members of the Senate have screwball policies but their basic ideology is more aligned with the conservatives than the Green/Labor leftist stand and should make the government's plans a little easier to achieve.

    At the very least the government won't be facing this 'We are going to vote against anything you put up no matter what' attitude that the upper house, under the control of the opposition, now presents and they should finally be able to govern as was the will of the people at the last election.

    Once that happens we will be able to see if their policies work and only then will they qualify for any criticism of their efforts to pull the country back to a reasonable position from the shambles the Labor/Greens coalition left us in.
    Gary O'Connor
  • I should point out

    The coalition actually got a substantial majority, 90 out of 150 seats, in the lower house but not in the senate.

    That means that they can get any bill they want to through the lower house and their only stumbling block since the election has been the Greens and Labor control of the upper house.

    That all changes in July when the upper house becomes a chamber with more conservative than left leaning politicians and swings the balance back to a more even position with a slight edge in favour of the current government.

    At that point they will finally be able to move forward.
    Gary O'Connor