New NBN chair Dr Switkowski to 'restore NBN to health'

New NBN chair Dr Switkowski to 'restore NBN to health'

Summary: Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has named former Telstra CEO Ziggy Switkowski as the new chairman of NBN Co.


Former Telstra CEO Ziggy Switkowski will become the new NBN Co chairman, after the Cabinet approved his appointment, which was proposed by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, on Thursday.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has filled some seats on his new NBN Co board.
(Image: Josh Taylor/ZDNet)

The rumours of the former Telstra and Optus boss being considered for the position had swirled since before the election, and gained traction when it was revealed in September that the new Coalition government had asked the existing NBN Co board, chaired by Siobhan McKenna, for their resignations. The government received resignation offers from five of the seven board members, and today sacked all but two of the board members.

The surviving members are Dr Kerry Schott, a former staff member from Turnbull's consulting firm Whitlam Turnbull in the 1990s, and Alison Lansley, a partner with law firm Mallesons.

There had been rumours that former Leighton Holdings boss Wal King was approached to sit on the board, but he appears to have been left off the list, as King today has denied claims that he was aware of alleged bribery and fraud at the construction company.

Turnbull refused to say whether King had been approached, other than saying that there had been an "orgy of speculation" around who would be appointed to the board, and most of it had been inaccurate.

"If I comment on Mr King, you'll ask me to comment on the half a dozen of the other people [who had been speculated]."

Switkowski has close ties to the Coalition, and was the CEO of Telstra between 1999 and 2004, overseeing the second stage of the privatisation of Telstra during the last Coalition government, as well as the launch of Telstra's ISP division BigPond. Turnbull said today that Switkowski was appointed for his experience in the industry.

"In appointing Dr Switkowski to the board as chairman, we have appointed one of the most experienced telecom executives in Australia," he said.

"A very distinguished company director and company chairman since he left Telstra, Dr Switkowski is an outstanding business leader."

Switkowski was tipped to be the new CEO, but Turnbull indicated today that Switkowski would only be the executive chairman and until a new CEO is appointed by the board. Outgoing NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley today met with Switkowski to formulate a handover plan.

More appointments to the board will be made down the track, Turnbull said.

Today also marks the kick-off of the 60-day review of the National Broadband Network (NBN) to be undertaken by the new board. This review will look at where the company is at the moment and where it would go under the existing Labor fibre-to-the-premises plan, and where it could go under a change in policy to fibre-to-the-node in many places.

"We need to know what is the state of the project is like right now, accurately," Turnbull said. "Then we need to know what are our options for making it more cost effective."

Turnbull said the NBN has been "riddled with politics", and that the company is now being asked to undertake its own review and give Turnbull the "real facts" to allow the government to make a decision on the future of the project.

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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  • Turnbull's gotta be kiddin

    Turnbull had "ridiculed the NBN with politics", well Duke Nukem Switkowski, involved in the much ridiculed Foxtel Optus street cabling race, started Bigpond with their much ridiculed sky high broadband pricing and minescule investment in broadband technology. Switkowski believed the internet was short term fad, the long term future of Telstra was the copper telephonic model.
    Doesn't Malcolm remember the dumbass investments Telstra made in shonkey internet startups, that cost shareholders hundreds of millions causing the collapse of it's share price, and the hiring of a true telco professional Sol Trujillo to replace the failed Switkowski.
    Kevin Cobley
    • How about some facts

      Switkowski may not have been a great CEO at Telstra, but he was very effective at Optus and that cable network which you are criticising was good for the time and helped build the company. Sol Trujillo's main strategy was to maintain the status quo of Australia in the technological stone age (he even opposed ADSL2+ until he was forced to follow suit). No company in recent memory has had such a disastrous collapse in their share price as Telstra under Trujillo.

      Switkowski is ALSO THE ONLY LIVING PERSON IN AUSTRALIA who has presided over the rollout of a new network from scratch. The NBN rollout has been a joke, mainly because it was planned by clueless politicians instead of by people who actually know what they're doing.
  • What a wonderful way to endear an obsolete copper based patchwork plan to internet users. Let's bring in someone from the good old days to show us just how much more can be squeezed from the copper. Well done Turnbull, you picked the perfect person to run GimpCo and someone who can achieve the results you want in 1184 days.
    Hubert Cumberdale
    • Your usual verbal bullshit without a piece of evidence.

      Well, here is some evidence - from none other than a former member of the NBN Board, Brad Orgill.

      ""I was struck by the dysfunctional nature of various NBN operational aspects . . . " The small amount of network built occurred despite NBNCo, not because of it!
      • Well Done Sentient

        Take something out of context & substitute your own B/S for any positive aspect of the statement LOL
        • What is taken out of context?

          That is what was said. He said many others things as well, but that excerpt is within the context stated. Just keep your eyes shut and pretend that all is well.
      • *yawn*
        Hubert Cumberdale
        • Be careful

          Yawning probably is close to the limit of your mental capacity.
  • Oh No ...not another grab...third time lucky!

    Well....funny as it seems ...our Ziggy was CEO of Kodak Austrlalia before his appointment to Telstra ...set up all the mechanisms for a profitable and exciting future...errr...haven't they gone broke after the govt gave millions to all the plans and export of processing technology to China....uumm...that's a point....over to you....hope it isn't the NBN...third time here!!
  • Corruption???????????????????????

    If this does not smack of Government and Corporate corruption by placing the position of the CEO of the NBN with a person who screwed Telstra into the ground then broke and ran with his golden handshake. One has to wonder what ulterior motive or motivator is behind this appointment. My guess is it is most likely Rupert who after all has the most to game by setting up a guaranteed to fail dismally system there bye leaving him in a position to set up his Fox network as an absolute monopoly but only to those who can afford to pay it of course. I guess the old practice of keeping the masses ignorant by denying them access to the truth will work well here. In the mean time perhaps there should be an independent commission set up to investigate corrupt actions by the new government in its application of its new policies, after all we would all like to think that their plans are for the better of the country and not the back pockets of multi billionaires some of whom are not even Australian citizens.
  • More Telstra ....

    It was bad enough with NBN Co being labelled Telecoms 2 and moving a chunk of Telstra "not FttH" planners across, now we have the old Telstra boss !. Going to be watching this one closely although hard to see how NBN Co could betray the taxpayers even further. Was hoping they would burn NBN Co to the ground and start with fresh hands.

    Go Sentient go - nice comment.
  • Interesting

    So so you support FttH nbn or not. Because it seems like you just want your beloved copper cable forever and ever.