Turnbull hints at NBN Co board change

Turnbull hints at NBN Co board change

Summary: The federal opposition's communications spokesman has criticised the NBN Co board over its lack of experience in telecommunications.

TOPICS: NBN, Government AU

Malcolm Turnbull has strongly hinted that he may sack members of the board of NBN Co if the Coalition is elected.

"It is remarkable that such a large board has no one with hands-on experience building or running a telecommunications network," he told the Nine Network's Financial Review on Sunday.

"People can draw their own conclusions from that."

The comments come after it emerged that the board of the federal government-owned company, led by chair Siobhan McKenna, had hired lobbying firm Bespoke Approach to talk up its achievements to Coalition MPs and save their jobs in the event of a change of government.

The news has raised allegations of misuse of taxpayers' funds.

An NBN Co spokesperson told AAP on Sunday that the board "often retains strategic advisers on various areas of the business".

McKenna has also been meeting senior bureaucrats outside the Department of Broadband for the same reason, according to a report in The Australian Financial Review.

The opposition has said it will review the AU$37.4 billion infrastructure project's board and management.

NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley officially quit on Friday, although Turnbull said he had been axed.

The NBN is Australia's largest ever infrastructure project, aiming to deliver faster internet to millions of Australians through millions of kilometres of fibre optics.

However, it is behind schedule, and has been marred recently by asbestos mishandling scares at Telstra's NBN sites in NSW and the Coalition presenting its own cheaper broadband plan.

Turnbull said it is very questionable that expenses on lobbyists being borne by NBN Co are in the company's interests.

Bespoke was set up by and is run by senior political figures including former Liberal minister Alexander Downer, former Liberal staffer Ian Smith, and former Labor minister Nick Bolkus.

Topics: NBN, Government AU

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  • For once

    I completely agree with Turnbull here. This is a completely misappropriate use of taxpayer funds and reeks of self-interest and saving their own hides.

    Don't get me wrong, I am absolutely in favour of the current NBN model, but this is not good at all. Why not spend the money on bringing the NBN back up to speed in terms of the rollout schedule, and let those achievement speak for themselves, rather than employing a PR company to spin it.
    • This is what is most disconcerting:


      "NBN Co has spent 12 to 14 per cent of its capital budget but less than 2 per cent of premises are passed by fibre and less than 0.5 per cent are using NBN fibre."
      • It's not really

        Any infrastructure project is going to spend large at the start of the project as contracts are signed and the logistics put in place to complete the build, so it stands to reason that they're spending more now.
        • I somewhat agree

          Certainly many major projects will have a large proportion of their capital expense at the start, but it seems that 12-14% of capital to pass only 2% of premises might be on the wrong side.

          This also needs to be read in the context of the very low take-up rate. What is also not discussed is the low take-up rate of the 100Meg connections. The last stat's that I read indicated a take-up rate of about 33% for 100Meg connections but a take-up rate of 36 or 39% for the low speed (12 and 25 Meg) connections. That might change over time, but at the moment it means that a large proportion of the income for NBNCo is from the lowest speed connections, which are, presumably, their cheapest. The expectation was that far and away the majority of people would opt for the fastest connections but that has not been the reality.
  • Poor Suburb Targeting?

    It might help if the NBN was actually rolled out to areas where the take-up rate may be higher (i.e. a few more upper income suburbs and suburbs with a higher proportion of young adults).

    My friend and I live in a "rich" suburb (although we aren't rich, I'm a student).
    We've checked out what our ISP's packages are and we would sign up for a 100 Mb plan, if the NBN was actually rolled out to our suburb.
    It would only cost us $10/month more and the speed would be 20x faster (theoretically).
    • Yes

      Areas were targeed for political reasons, not for logical or financial reasons. The original trial site in Armidale is mostly vacant land but the site leads to UNE and was chosen to favour Tony Windsor.
  • Great this is coming out

    To all those (it turns out possibly paid) bloggers who have criticised Turnbull and wished he would be quiet - this is what an opposition minister is meant to do - and why I am happy to have my taxes paying his salary. I wonder what else will come out now that Quigly/ Conroy are no longer there to run interference.