Turnbull to probe Conroy's NBN advice

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced that there will be an independent audit into the advice the former Labor government received when it decided to create the National Broadband Network.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Coalition government has announced it will review the advice given to the former Labor government when it established the National Broadband Network in 2009.

The independent audit will be conducted by former Telstra corporate affairs head and Swinburne University chancellor Bill Scales.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced today that the review will examine the public policy process between April 2008 when the former Labor government issued a request for proposals for the NBN up to May 2010 when the NBN implementation study was released.

The audit is aiming to determine the advice given to the Labor government and the process that led to "NBN Co's mandate to run fibre to the premises (FttP) to 90-93 percent of Australian premises".

The establishment of the NBN has been one that the Coalition had persistently questioned since 2008. Since the 2010 election, Turnbull has consistently criticised the former Labor government for embarking on the NBN project without conducting a cost-benefit analysis. One of the major myths around the establishment of the then-AU$43 billion National Broadband Network was that the whole project was conceived on the back of a napkin between former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on a plane trip.

According to the terms of reference, the government is seeking recommendations on what future actions can be taken by the government in relation to major projects such as the NBN.

The audit will consult people both inside and outside of government, and will access "legally available information". A spokesperson for the minister's office confirmed to ZDNet that the audit will not have access to sensitive Cabinet documents from the former Labor government.

The report is due back to government in July.

Turnbull also announced a review of NBN Co's internal governance to be conducted by KordaMentha. In addition to these reviews, the government has launched the NBN Co strategic review, the broadband cost-benefit analysis, and the broadband quality review.

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