Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbul. Photo: Rob Homer
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has commissioned a fifth audit of the national broadband network since coming to office in September.
The inquiry will concentrate on the period from April 2008 to May 2010. It will look into the processes that led to the creation of NBN Co, the builder of the network, and the steps leading to an implementation study. It is in addition to a review of NBN Co governance already under way by advisory firm KordaMentha.
Mr Turnbull has appointed former Telstra director Bill Scales to head the audit. A statement from Mr Turnbull's office said Mr Scales brought "a wealth of experience in public policy and telecommunications to the role". He has been chairman of the Industry Commission (now the Productivity Commission), secretary of Victoria’s Department of Premier and Cabinet and has been involved with other high-profile inquiries including the Gonski Review.
In an interview published on the Australian Institute of Company Directors website last year, Mr Scales said he had spent five years as Dr Ziggy Switkowski's chief of staff while at Telstra. A former Telstra CEO, Dr Switkowski is now executive chairman of NBN Co.
The details of how NBN Co was set up have ramifications to the way the government accounts for the cost of building it. It is currently accounted for ex-budget as NBN Co is a separate entity.
The audit will also investigate the choice of Labor-mandated fibre-to-the-premise technology.
The independent auditor will consult with relevant parties in government and the private sector.
The other reviews included a strategy review already completed, a 90-day study of broadband availability and quality in Australia by the Department of Communications released last month, and a cost-benefit analysis by independent consultants also due in July.
Labor's communications spokesman Jason Clare said Mr Turnbull seemed "to have an unhealthy obsession" with former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and "with fighting old wars".
"The people of Australia want him to build the NBN, not play politics," Mr Clare said.
Another study, an extension of the strategic review - the Fixed Wireless and Satellite Review - has also been commissioned. It will consider strategic options available to NBN Co to for coverage outside the fixed footprint.
Senator Conroy said: “This is the sixth review Malcolm Turnbull has commissioned into broadband and Labor’s NBN since becoming the Minister.
"It’s time he stopped using these distractions to hide the shambles of his own plans and just got on with building the network.”
NBN Co is also in negotiations with Telstra for a new deal over the telco's copper network which the government plans on using for its mixed-technology broadband network design.
Mr Scales will report back on July 5.
with Heath Ashton