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Labor accuses NBN boss Ziggy Switkowski of breaking election rules

Labor has accused National Broadband Network boss Ziggy Switkowski of breaching election rules by penning an opinion piece in which he defended the company's decision to call in the police over media leaks.

Opposition frontbencher Tony Burke is calling on the nation's top public servant, Martin Parkinson, to investigate what he says is a clear breach of the caretaker conventions that govern public servants.

Federal police last week raided the Melbourne office of former communications minister Stephen Conroy and the home of a Labor staffer as part of an investigation into the alleged leaking of confidential NBN documents.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused the government - through the NBN - of silencing whistleblowers and limiting the public's right to know about the progress of one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Australian history.  

But in an article published by Fairfax Media on Saturday, Dr Switkowski was unapologetic about the NBN's decisions.

"When dozens of confidential company documents are stolen, this is theft," Dr Switkowski said.

"When they are the basis of media headlines and partisan attacks, they wrongly tarnish our reputation, demoralise our work force, distract the executive, and raise doubts where there is little basis for concern."

He also used the article to deny the NBN had been hit by cost blowouts or rollout delays, and said the company had been subjected to "inexcusable" and "galling" attacks on its performance.

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But Mr Burke says the unusually strident election campaign commentary amounts to Dr Switkowski running "a contestable script to the specific advantage of the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party".

"Dr Switkowski's intervention is a clear breach of the Caretaker Conventions and the Commonwealth Government Business Enterprise Governance and Oversight Guidelines," Mr Burke says in letter to Mr Parkinson. "I ask that you immediately undertake inquiries in relation to this matter."

Mr Burke wants Dr Parkinson to established whether any ministers or their offices provided any advice or approval over the piece.

"I am sure that you recognise the importance of ensuring that government companies are seen to be politically impartial and that Commonwealth resources are not used for the advantage of any political party.

The CEO of Internet Australia, Laurie Patton, also took aim at Dr Switkowski's article, saying he was making serious accusations against two unnamed NBN officers despite no charges having been laid.

"It is unhelpful and unfair to be publicly disparaging people who, for the moment, are unable to respond. This is especially so during an election period in which the NBN is clearly a germaine issue for many voters," he said.

Mr Patton said the alleged actions of two individuals should not be used to distract from "the very serious flaws in NBN's current design strategy".

"The issue is not about NBN's performance to date, on which there is real and genuine concern in
technical circles and in the public arena, it's about the fundamental fact that they are building an inferior network at a time when Australia has well justified ambitions to become a leading innovation nation," he said.

Mr Patton says whoever wins the election should hold an independent review into the NBN.

With Matthew Knott