The former head of telecom giant Telstra has been appointed chairman of NBN Co., following the mass resignation of the company’s board.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced that a new three person board for NBN Co has been appointed by the government, headed by Dr Ziggy Switkowski, who was Telstra’s chief executive until 2004.
Dr Switowski will hold the position of executive chairman until the appointment of a chief executive officer, and is joined on the new board by Kerry Schott and Alison Lansley, both whom were members of the previous NBN board.
Former chairwoman Siobhan McKenna led a mass resignation of the NBN board towards the end of last month, prompted by the barrage of criticism levied at the company’s board and senior management by the new communications minister. Turnbull has repeatedly criticized NBN Co for its cost blowouts, lengthy delays and losses suffered by contractors.
Turnbull directed much of his ire at McKenna, focusing in particular on her lack of experience in the telecoms sector.
The Communications Minister has found a new chairman with ample telecommunications experience in the form of Dr Switkowski, given his previous position as Telstra head.
“Dr Switkowski is an outstanding Australian business leader,” Turnbull said.
Both Dr Switowski’s appointment and the Coalition’s decision to switch from a fibre-to-the-door to a far less expensive fibre-to-the-node plan for the NBN are factors which could heavily favor Telstra’s involvement with the project.
The fibre-to-the-node plan means that Australia’s Internet infastructure will continue to be heavily reliant on Telstra’s copper network, while Dr Switowski’s former position as head of Telstra could help the telecom giant obtain a raft of lucrative contracts for the project’s construction, estimated to be worth between $5 – 6 billion.
Turnbull pilloried the preceding Labor government’s efforts to get the project off the ground.
“Labor has made shocking mistakes. There are billions of dollars that Labor has wasted that we will never be able to recover,” Turnbull said. “This has been a shocking misconceived, wasteful exercise in public policy”
Turnbull said in order to better determine the best course of action for the NBN the government is currently conducting a strategic review covering “what the status of the project is at the moment; how much it is going to cost; and how long it will take to complete it on the current plan or the Labor government’s plan of a 93 per cent fibre to the premise model.”