Former NBN chief blames contractors for rollout delays
Outgoing NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley has taken a parting swipe at some contractors building the $40 billion high-speed national broadband network (NBN), blaming them for delays that have plagued the project.
The foundation boss of NBN Co also insisted the project was largely on budget and long-term revenue projections for the network remain "achievable".
"It is certainly true that some of our delivery partners have not been able to scale their activities as quickly as we had hoped and this part of the rollout is behind where we would like it to be," Mr Quigley said in a memo to staff.
Mr Quigley stood down on Thursday after flagging his retirement earlier this year. His exit came as former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski was confirmed as leader of a new three-person board to oversee Australia's largest infrastructure project.
Dr Switkowski, a one-time nuclear physicist, was Telstra's chief executive for five years until 2004. He is also the chairman of financial services group Suncorp.
The new NBN Co board was recommended by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and confirmed in the Coalition cabinet meeting on Thursday.
Dr Switkowski, who replaces outgoing chairwoman Siobhan McKenna, will be joined by current NBN Co board members Kerry Schott and Alison Lansley. The two women are the only survivors of the former NBN Co board, who tendered their resignations after the Coalition won the election.
Mr Turnbull, who blamed the previous board for cost blowouts and timetable delays, had urged the board to resign.
Dr Switkowski will act as a temporary chief executive while the NBN Co and its headhunters look for a replacement for Mr Quigley.
Mr Quigley said he had "never believed that the solution to this problem was to spend more taxpayers' money than is required for an efficient network build, even if doing so may have made life a bit easier for management".
He also gave some backing to the Coalition's scaled-back NBN proposal, saying fibre-to-the-node would allow the project to be built "more quickly and at less cost to the taxpayer".
Mr Turnbull has said on several occasions that given the NBN was a huge building project, he wanted the leadership of the company to have construction experience.
Dr Switkowski said he was "greatly pleased, indeed honoured, to have been appointed to this role" and hoped to "make this truly significant national project a success".
Dr Schott, a favourite of Mr Turnbull's, is a former managing director of Deutsche Bank and deputy secretary of the NSW Treasury. She was also a staff member at Mr Turnbull's now defunct consulting firm Whitlam Turnbull between 1987 and 1990.
Brushing off criticisms about Dr Switkowski's reign at Telstra, characterised by a weak share price, Mr Turnbull described the new NBN chairman as "one of the most experienced telecom executives in Australia" and an "outstanding" business leader.
Labor's broadband spokesman, Anthony Albanese, said Mr Turnbull had failed to add experience relevant to the NBN rollout with his decision.
Mr Turnbull has already instructed the NBN to start testing copper-based broadband technologies. The Coalition's policy involves piggybacking on copper telephone wires rather than running fibre-optic cables to homes and businesses.