Charity wins in NBN wrangle
'It's made me realise we are all lucky or unlucky' ... Mike Quigley, NBN.
In an extraordinary and rare display of straight talking, the NBN Co chief executive, Mike Quigley, says he donated his entire first-year pay cheque of almost $2 million to charity to wriggle out of a tight political corner.
Mr Quigley recently discussed donating his taxpayer-funded salary in 2010 to research into brain diseases and stroke rehabilitation.
The communications boss, who survived a life-threatening battle with leukaemia in the 1990s, said of the donation at the time: ''I'm in the fortunate position where I can afford to give away my first year's salary. When you have a life-threatening disease, it has an impact on how you view things and you find out what is really important in life, and it's made me realise that we are all lucky or unlucky.''
But the warm glow of charitable giving was absent when Mr Quigley took part in a ''meet the CEO'' forum hosted by the BRW and University of NSW. In response to a question about the sizeable gift, Mr Quigley admitted that rather than an act of benevolence, ''that was to solve a problem with Senate estimates''.
The comment drew laughter from the crowd but the facts bear out Mr Quigley's candid statement with the opposition doggedly persistent to uncover what they claim are blowouts in costs of the NBN, which is now running a year behind schedule.
After Mr Quigley's donation in 2010, transcripts show the sting was taken out of the hearings that the Coalition had hoped would expose the excessive executive pay structure in the organisation.
The national broadband network is the country's biggest capital project and has a price tag to match, with the total cost projected to rise by $1.5 billion to $37 billion, according to the government's latest figures.
The latest NBN Co annual report shows the company is spending 25 times more on salaries than it earned from selling broadband to customers, with network executives at the network netting more than $600,000 in bonuses.
Mr Quigley, however, has said he would forgo annual bonuses as he had philosophical problems with the idea that a bonus would make him work harder. It is understood he forfeited $314,000 in bonuses last year.
The NBN Co executive was absent at the latest round of estimates hearings on October 16 but the Coalition hardheads, Eric Abetz and George Brandis, will have their chance to grill Mr Quigley on Tuesday in the joint NBN committee half-yearly review.