NBN chair Ziggy Switkowski reappointed

Ziggy Switkowski has been reappointed by the Australian government for another three years as chair of the NBN board.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Australian government has announced the reappointment of the chair of the National Broadband Network (NBN) company, Ziggy Switkowski, for three years.

The reappointment, announced in a joint statement between Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and Finance Minister Matthias Cormann, is effective as of October 3.

"Dr Switkowski, one of Australia's most distinguished telecommunications executives, has done an outstanding job as chair of the NBN board," Fifield and Cormann said on Friday.

"Along with [NBN CEO] Bill Morrow and the executive team, the board has transformed the company and achieved a remarkable rate of growth in the rollout."

Switkowski was originally appointed as NBN chair three years ago, when the Coalition came into power at the end of 2013, after serving as CEO of both Telstra and Optus previously.

Switkowski last month approved bigger bonuses for NBN's executives thanks to an "exceptional" financial year in terms of performance.

"Board approved an STI [short-term incentive] payout that reflected its judgment that operating performance for the year had been exceptional," NBN chair Ziggy Switkowski wrote in the report.

In July, former Communications Minister and Senator Stephen Conroy called for the resignation of both Switkowski and Fifield, saying the raids on his office and the home of one of his staffers by the Australian Federal Police earlier this year was "illegal", as NBN is not a Commonwealth officer and therefore cannot make referrals.

"I've written to the Federal Police on Friday, asking them to end their ludicrous investigation into links from the NBN on the basis of legal advice that says NBN Co have incorrectly called the police in," Conroy said in July.

"They are not Commonwealth officers, and I'm seeking and demanding an end to the investigation and an apology from Ziggy Switkowski, an apology from Mitch Fifield who's overseen this, and Ziggy Switkowski resign over it."

Switkowski was also accused of breaching caretaker conventions during the recent federal election by writing an opinion piece defending NBN's raids.

"When dozens of confidential company documents are stolen, this is theft," Switkowski wrote in the article.

"The process is a form of political rumourtrage -- the circulation of misinformation to diminish an enterprise for political gain.

"One rationalisation has appeared that this theft is the action of whistleblowers. No, it is not."

As a result, Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) Martin Parkinson found Switkowski's article to be "not consistent with the established practices" of the conventions that dictate how government departments and business are to behave during an election -- and also ignored advice from the Department of Communications.

"I understand from my inquiries that NBN provided an advance draft of the article to the Department of Communications and the Arts," Parkinson wrote.

"The Department of Communications and the Arts sought, and received, advice from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet that the publication of the article in that form was not consistent with the established practices associated with the Caretaker Conventions.

"I understand that view was strongly conveyed to NBN by the Department of Communications and the Arts, as was the view that the conventions apply to the Chairman, as well as to the CEO and the company. Our understanding is that this view was passed to Dr Switkowski."

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