Tuesday, 24 September 2013

AM 23/9 Most of NBN board offer resignations

Most of NBN board offer resignations
Sabra Lane reported this story on Monday, September 23, 2013 08:15:00
TIM PALMER: The Climate Change Commission's gone, AusAID has been folded back into another department - now much of the board of the NBN Co looks set to go too. 

The arrival of new Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has sparked a dramatic response at the top of the organisation.

Our chief political correspondent Sabra Lane joins us now from Canberra.

Sabra, what has been the board's response to the gap between themselves and the incoming minister?

SABRA LANE: Well there are seven board members, Tim, and I understand that six of the seven have offered their resignations to the Government. 

I contacted NBN Co this morning for comment. It says the issue is one for the minister and certainly it seems that the resignations are an issue for the two ministers responsible for the NBN - the Finance and Communications Ministers. 

Now, Malcolm Turnbull isn't speaking this morning. But it's known for quite some time that he's been critical of the board, saying that most of them had no experience in rolling out a piece of infrastructure of this magnitude. Now we know that Mike Quigley, the CEO, resigned in July and he's still in place at the moment. 

Mr Turnbull has promised a number of reviews into the NBN if the Coalition did win, and it's understood the first of those, the strategic review, will be underway within the next fortnight. And that review will look at how long it will take and how much it will cost to complete the NBN on the current specifications. It will also spell out the comparison under the Coalition's plan, detailing the time, costs and speeds. 

TIM PALMER: So if there was tension between Malcolm Turnbull when he was in opposition and members of the board, it's seen to fall heavily on what he thought of the board's chairwoman? 

SABRA LANE: That's right. In July he said that Siobhan McKenna did not have the skills or the experience involved to be the chief executive of the company, and certainly that was the suggestion at the time that she might step into the job of CEO when Mike Quigley quit. 

Mr Quigley is still there. He's decided to stay there until a replacement could be found. Mr Turnbull was critical of the board's decision then at the time too to hire a political lobbying firm to lobby the Coalition about the board's talents and experience. He described that at the time as unprecedented. 

Certainly one name that has been nominated as someone who could potentially stand in as the new chairman of NBN Co is the former head of Telstra and Optus, Ziggy Switkowski. 

TIM PALMER: Certainly any gap between the current board and the incoming minister has been not just a matter of competing ideology but it's about competing technology. So what has Telstra been doing regarding the testing of the Coalition's preferred technology, the fibre to the node model?

SABRA LANE: Well it seems it's built a test site in a lab, Tim, and it's certainly the current Government's preferred choice of fibre to the node technology. So Telstra has been using copper taken out from the field and put into a lab and they've teamed it up with what's known as VDSL technology, which is basically noise-cancelling technology, to gain high quality communications with connections using old copper lines. 

Now, Telstra's confirmed this morning it's been testing this. It says it's been going well. But that it hasn't demonstrated its capabilities to anyone just yet. 

TIM PALMER: We’ll wait and see. Chief political correspondent Sabra Lane, from Canberra.

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