Turnbull rubbishes 'blue book' leak as an out-of-date, partisan attack

Australian Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has dismissed the findings of a leaked 'blue book' as a political document prepared by NBN Co six months ago.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Malcolm Turnbull has responded to reports that NBN Co will not be able to deliver its commitments for a 25Mbps fibre-to-the-node network by 2016 by saying that the document leaked is not the incoming "blue book" brief prepared for incoming ministers upon a change of government, but rather a document prepared by NBN Co's former management when the company was focused on delivering a fibre-to-the-premises network.

"Fairfax has published a totally political document, written by a management team that had conspicuously and consistently failed to meet every forecast they ever made," Turnbull said on Channel Nine this morning.

"They've got a document which was prepared at the Labor government's request more than six months ago by the NBN Co management, Mike Quigley and Ralph Steffens, both of whom are now gone."

Turnbull said that the document is not only out of date, but also defends "a failed project", and that the public would soon know "what is actually going on the NBN" upon its expected release next month.

"[There's] a big team in there to find out what the real state of the project is at the moment, where it's heading under the old plans, what our options are for doing that sooner, cheaper, and more affordably — it's a very objective study, and that will be produced shortly," the minister said.

Communications, Electrical, Plumbing Union official Shane Murphy told a Senate Select committee yesterday that the state of Telstra's copper is an "absolute disgrace" that would be unfit to form the basis of a fibre-to-the-node network, and has degraded since the privatisation of Telstra began in the 1990s. Murphy said that Telstra has "driven a culture of quantity over quality", where employees are "band-aiding the network" quickly and moving onto other jobs.

"Telstra can now not even determine the extent of the damage, or how bad it is. [It has] degenerated to an absolute disgrace and nearly beyond repair," he said.

Turnbull accused Labor of muddying the issues surrounding the NBN.

"You've seen Stephen Conroy's appalling conduct in the Senate yesterday, bullying and harassing witnesses from the department.

"This is a desperate attempt by Conroy and Labor to avoid the day of reckoning when taxpayers find out how reckless and misconceived this project is," he said.

"This was a very partisan [document] ... this is not the department's brief, it's the company's document.

"Our promise is to tell the truth about the NBN, and we'll honour that."

The hearings of the Senate Select committee continue today.

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