Turnbull: NBN Co directors asked to resign
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirms that the NBN Co board members were all requested to offer their resignations. All but one did.PT0M55S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2ubzn 620 349 September 24, 2013
NBN Co will continue connecting fibre to homes where construction has started but will also start testing copper-based broadband technologies under instructions from the new Communications Minister.
This will provide certainty for contractors.
Malcolm Turnbull also confirmed he asked the NBN Co board to resign last week to give the new government ''flexibility'' when implementing its new policy.
Malcolm Turnbull: "This will provide certainty for contractors." Photo: AFR
But Mr Turnbull has left long-term changes to the project, such as halting the fibre-to-the-home roll out, up to the outcome of three reviews, including a strategic review, cost-benefit analysis and independent audit.
The 60-day strategic review will be conducted by NBN Co but cannot start until cabinet appoints a new board.
''I asked for their resignations,'' Mr Turnbull said on Tuesday. ''We had a discussion with the chairwoman [Siobhan McKenna] and she was very amenable and understanding that the incoming government would expect to have maximum flexibility in terms of dealing with the board.''
Mr Turnbull said the directors' resignations would avoid having to terminate their positions and he expects to soon select NBN Co's new chief executive in consultation with the board.
But, despite repeatedly calling for the Productivity Commission to conduct the NBN cost-benefit analysis while in opposition, the Abbott government now seems unlikely to use it.
''There are some issues with the Productivity Commission,'' Mr Turnbull said. ''Their chairman [Peter Harris] is the former head of the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.''
The commission would ''in effect be conducting an inquiry into policy that had been, in a large part, designed by its [current] chairman'', he said.
Mr Turnbull has also asked NBN Co to start working on its 2014-17 corporate plan and the Communications Department to start assessing the availability and quality of broadband around Australia with input from the telecommunications industry.
NBN Co has been told to ''continue to roll out the network as rapidly and cost-effectively as possible'' with construction at 300,000 premises expected to be completed. Construction may start at a further 900,000 premises currently listed on NBN Co's one-year roll out plan and where detailed design work has been done, depending on the outcome of the reviews.
''These decisions will ensure there is a steady flow of work on the NBN until well into 2014,'' Mr Turnbull said. ''This will provide certainty for contractors and ensure they do not have to demobilise work forces. We expect this period of review will lead to revisions to the timing of the roll out and to updated forecasts. It is important to bear in mind, however, that the NBN roll out has, to date, repeatedly missed its targets.''
The latest forecasts revision predicts 729,000 premises would be passed with fibre by June next year, down from a June forecast for 981,000 premises.
An NBN Co spokesman said ''the revision of the numbers reflects the impact of the five-month halt to remediation work while Telstra reviewed its asbestos handling procedures''.
While NBN Co fulfils existing fibre contracts, it has been told to start taking the availability of copper technologies into account, such as vectored VDSL (asymmetric digital subscriber lines).
Mr Turnbull sent a letter to NBN Co staff saying he was ''not dogmatic about technology choices'' and that he wanted NBN Co to ''be more transparent than a publicly listed company''.
''I am not interested in being given information or advice that is tailored to conform with what may be assumed to be my political agenda,'' he wrote to staff.
The new statement of expectations replaces the former government's instructions to connect 93 per cent of premises with fibre-to-the-premises technology.
The Competitive Carriers' Coalition lobby group said the telco industry had been concerned the incoming government would stop the fibre roll out.