08 October 2011

PM's $140,000 'stunt' to promote national broadband network

THE Federal Government spent $140,000 on a single publicity stunt to announce the first seven customers to sign up for a free trial of the NBN, it has been revealed.

The launch in independent MP Tony Windsor's northern NSW seat in May was attended by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, as well as NBN Co boss Mike Quigley.

The Government has admitted the cost of the event, which the Opposition calls a "giant publicity stunt", was $138,474.05.

It was organised to show the PM "switching on" the first mainland NBN connection in Armidale.

It was later revealed that only seven retail customers in Armidale had actually signed up for the free trial prior to the launch - despite 3000 homes in the area being NBN ready.

Ms Gillard at the time described the NBN as "the greatest infrastructure project in this nation's history."

Answers provided by NBN Co to a parliamentary inquiry into the broadband roll-out also have revealed the Government-funded monopoly has leased top-of-the-market office space in Melbourne and Sydney to base it operations.

Documents seen by the Herald Sun show that NBN Co has leased office space in North Sydney at $3.1 million a year - or $512 per square metre.

This would put the office in the highest quality space - regarded as A grade or premium real estate.

In Melbourne, its office rental costs are even higher - $535 a square metre - but due to the smaller size costs $2.46 million a year.

Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham, who put the questions to the company during a Senate inquiry, said the cost of the launch was unacceptable and with four similar events subsequently held in other states, the total cost of publicity already could be close to $700,000.

"Such is Labor's propensity for wasteful spending that even the flicking of a switch comes with a whopping great price tag," Mr Birmingham said.

"If Labor had any regard for taxpayers' money it would refund the cost of these blatantly political media opportunities.

"With expenses like these it is little wonder NBN Co has sought approval for price rises 5 per cent above the inflation rate."

Mr Conroy said NBN Co's spending was a matter for them, but "the Government expects that NBN Co, as a wholly government owned enterprise, will make reasonable and responsible spending decisions."

The documents also reveal that by December 31 this year, it is estimated 1427 staff will be employed at an average yearly wage of $145,000.

The NBN, it is claimed, will offer internet speeds 10 times faster than offered now.

heraldsun.com.au 8 Oct 2011

Another money for mates deal supported by public funding.

The so called tendering process is supposed to follow stringent outlines for best value.

These practices are ignored an in breach of the government's own procedures.

This salary scam is another deal the so commonly goes beyond the mass media eye.

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