Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Questions without Notice
National Broadband Network
Through you, Mr President, Senator Williams might be interested to know that, by September 2013, almost $7 billion had been spent on the NBN but it had reached only three per cent of homes and businesses in Australia.
Senator Conroy interjecting—
Senator Johnston, Senator Cormann and Senator Smith may be interested to know that, in Western Australia, only 74 premises in established towns and suburbs had been connected to the NBN fibre network by September last year—only 74. I know the view of my Western Australian colleagues is that Labor was not building—
Honourable senators interjecting—
A key reason for NBN Co's dismal progress was Labor's contempt for expert advice. They refused to hire executives with relevant experience, they refused to listen when industry experts warned the project was in peril and yesterday we learnt that they even refused to listen to their hand-picked board of directors.
… she has "no regrets" about her time overseeing the construction of the national broadband network, but suggested the federal government ignored advice of the board.
When asked whether the board had urged Senator Conroy to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the NBN, Ms Smith-Gander said:
Think about the notion of suggesting anything to Minister Conroy.
There you have it. The previous government disregarded all and— (Time expired)
One of Labor's mistakes was to fail to grasp that the NBN project was not about technology, it was not about marketing and it was not about spin; it was, in essence, a giant construction project. Again, NBN Co's former deputy chair let the cat out of the bag. She said that NBN Co's model of layer upon layer upon layer of subcontractors—the Sarah Lee approach, perhaps!—was wrong.
You had to go four up the chain until you actually got to one of the head contractors. I don't think that's the right way to have relationships with the people who work for you.
There were too many layers of management and not enough efficient execution. It was obvious to the board, the construction firms and the coalition that the previous government were not focused enough on execution. And the only person who could not see that was Senator Conroy. (Time expired)
Ms Smith-Gander's remarks remind us of how important it is to learn why the NBN failed under the previous government. We are ensuring that the truth is told and that lessons are learnt. We asked NBN Co's new leadership to review the project. This work revealed the truth about Labor's plan: that it would cost $73 billion and take a decade to finish. We have asked KordaMentha to audit NBN Co's governance. That work is almost complete and we look forward to receiving it. We have also asked Mr Bill Scales AO, former chairman of the Productivity Commission, to audit the policy process which resulted in the NBN. It will be fascinating to learn what due diligence Senator Conroy and his colleagues undertook, it will be fascinating to hear from where they obtained their advice and it will be fascinating to learn the basis for Senator Conroy's promise that taxpayers would earn a return of 7.1 per cent on invested capital.