Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hearing: NBN Co gagged on finer details of strategic review

NBN Co executive chairman Dr Ziggy Switkowski. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
NBN Co executive chairman Ziggy Switkowski has refused to hand over an unredacted version of the national broadband network strategic review, citing confidentiality issues and ministerial advice.

At an NBN Senate Select Committee hearing at the NSW State Library on Tuesday, former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy requested that NBN Co table to the committee an unredacted version of the review.

The review into the NBN Co and the rollout of Labor's fibre-to-the-premise network model was ordered by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull soon after the election. The review was delivered to Mr Turnbull on December 3. It was released publicly with redactions last week.

The motion to table the unredacted review was supported by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam and Labor Senator Deborah O'Neill.

Dr Switkowski refused the request, saying he had “concerns” about releasing it publicly.

“I have concerns about [the committee] accessing the full report,” Dr Switkowski said.

“The parts that have been redacted have been redacted for a reason,” he said.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull released a redacted version of the strategic review last Thursday. Some parts of the review include revised cost estimates for fibre-to-the-premises network rollout. It indicates savings could be achieved with productivity improvements. It also includes costs to upgrade the hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network to faster speeds.

Dr Switkowski said NBN Co sought advice from Mr Turnbull on releasing the review without redactions. Mr Turnbull's response “confirmed we are not able to provide the full report at this time”.

Senator Ludlam tweeted a copy of the letter from Turnbull, which was tabled by NBN Co.

“Plainly the NBN Co should not release the unredacted document,” Mr Turnbull said in the letter to NBN Co.

“It was prepared for the government, has been released with limited redactions and the full unredacted document remains cabinet-in-confidence.

“Further, any release would prejudice legal proceedings and damage the commercial interests of the government, including during ongoing contractual negotiations,” he wrote.

For those reasons, he said “the document should not be released for reasons of public interest immunity".

Just on the releasing of the NBN reports. Will the Government commit to releasing all future NBN Co reports or forecasts?

In September, Mr Turnbull committed to transparency when releasing NBN reports and forecasts.
"Well part of our policy is there will be – the answer is, we will ensure the NBN Co is as transparent or indeed more transparent than a publicly listed company," he said.

Dr Switkowski also refused to guarantee any broadband speeds delivered by the network. The Coalition's fibre-to-the-node policy promised a rollout with minimum speeds of 25 megabits per second by 2016, and 50 megabits per second three years later in 2019.

“I do not buy questions that demand us to guarantee anything,” Dr Switkowski said. “It’s clear that after four years of NBN, guarantees have lost currency.”

Dr Switkowski refused to answer Senator Conroy's questions regarding the salaries of NBN Co executives JB Rousselot and Greg Adcock saying those figures would be included in the company's annual report. However, he revealed that external consultants Deloitte, KordaMentha and Boston Consulting Group were paid a total of $8 million to help the company conduct the strategic review.

Consultancy firm McKinsey & Company received $25 million for an NBN implementation study prepared for the previous government in 2010. 17 Dec 2013

The whole NBN Co. project is not only a 'money for mates' deal but also a tenders fraud, and a corporate failure, that is going to escape the 'legal' system.

Currently ISP's are able to provide speeds of 100Mbps or 4 times greater than the initial implementation of the NBN.

Ziggy Switkowski was a CEO at Australia's telecommunications monopoly Telstra, where bill fraud costing Telstra customers worth tens of millions of dollars annually was not taken on board by Australia's prominent legal firm Slater and Gordon.

Fraud and corruption worth millions or even billions (as with the NBN) do not see the light of day in the corrupt Anglo-Masonic courts of Australia.

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