NBN Co rejects Coalition’s ‘talentless’ cheap shot


Senior NBN Co executive Kevin Brown (pictured) has used an internal company-wide email to reject the Coalition’s slur that it will be unable to find high-quality staff and is a “stodgy government bureaucracy”.

Opposition Finance Spokesperson Andrew Robb yesterday claimed NBN Co would not be able to attract the “highly skilled, highly innovative, highly specialised talents” that it will need to realise Labor’s National Broadband Network policy.

“Many of them will go oversees. They will not go and join a stodgy government bureaucracy with all its rules and bureaucracy and dictate to the Australian community,” said Robb as he aided Shadow Communications Minister Tony Smith in outlining the Coalition’s own broadband policy – which would see NBN Co disbanded and its hundreds of staff lose their jobs.

In an email to NBN Co staff seen by Delimiter, the company’s chief human resources officer and head of Corporate Services Kevin Brown rejected the “unjustified” comments as “ill-informed cheap shots”.

“I assure you that public comments by the Coalition opposition about the talentless people at NBN Co in a “stodgy government bureaucracy” are not views expressed to me by many other players in the Australian business community or global technology companies,” he said.

Brown pointed out that with regard to NBN Co’s “top 100 employees”, over half of the group had two university degrees (including four doctorates), 53 had worked in senior telco sector roles in Australia and overseas, over 15 percent had worked in top roles in “globally recognised companies”, including ASX50 companies and 27 were engineers by training.

In addition, seven out of NBN Co chief executive’s eight direct reports had lived and worked overseas in the global telecommunications industry.

“If the university system, all major telcos in Australia, the global technology supply companies and a number of ASX50 companies produce no talent then NBN Co may be “talentless”! I think not,” Brown added.

There have been few known leaks to the media from within the ranks of NBN Co since it was formed a year ago, but Brown appeared to hint that some staff may want to speak out in view of the Coalition’s threat to disband the fledgling company.

“The Federal Election and its focus on broadband policy is a confronting time for all of us at NBN Co,” he said. “I am aware many of you hold views about the right way forward for Australia, with an effective industry structure, where NBN Co can deliver cheap, equitable access to real high speed broadband for every Australian.”

“These are passionately held views we should each have, however at this time, I ask you to continue to be circumspect in the public airing of your views and allow Mike Quigley to represent NBN Co’s views with one voice. Our job is to stay focused on how to cost-effectively deliver the network despite the intense speculation about both broadband and NBN Co’s future.”

Brown thanked the staff for their hard work and professionalism in these “unusual times” for NBN Co and asked staff to stay focused on the job at hand.

Image credit: NBN Co


  1. I know at least one senior NBN engineer through previous collaboration, who is definitely one of the best network engineers in the country. If the email quoted is in any way accurate, Andrew Robb needs to pull his head all the way in. Quickly. And apologise.

    • I think Robb’s comments were way out of line — if an Opposition considers itself the future Government, it had better respect public servants and staff of Government-owned enterprises like NBN Co.

      Secondly, there is no doubt that NBN Co is staffed by some of the best and brightest in Australia’s telco sector. There has been a brain drain towards the NBN Co over the past year that has been awesome to behold. Almost universally, that I can see the company has hired gifted, quietly spoken engineers who are not arrogant and work well in teams.

      Having said that — to a certain extent, many Australians do agree with the philosophy behind Robb’s comments. The Telstra experience does show what tends to happen with Government-owned monopolies. It will be incumbent upon Quigley to ensure he does not create Telstra Mark 2, as Turnbull has referred to it.

      Personally, I have a great deal of confidence in Quigley.

      • Same – at the briefings I have attended that Quigley has been involved with himself personally – (what other CEO would come out and meet us plebs?) – I found his willingness to interact with and get feedback from and give feedback to attendees was outstanding.

        I’ve not been a fan of his in the past, but the way he’s conducted the whole NBN process has been mighty impressive to me.

      • Having met Adrian Inch who’s the GM of the NBN Tasmania, I also have full confidence in the NBN’s recruiting.

        Adrian was very switched on, was up front with us as much as he could be, and at the time was telling us that until they were told otherwise, the team was operating full steam ahead in planning the Tas rollout, regardless of the political landscape.

  2. Ok dickheads.. my turn.

    Light only works over a cable?

    The option to say… no, lets see what the future holds is clever. Or would you rather we pay a shit load of money on one technology.

    The Liberal policy is clearly prudent.

    20 years ago wireless didn’t exist for the Internet and I don’t think I could get over 20Kb/s PEAK on copper. Now I can get a PEAK of 22Mb’s over copper wire which I didn’t pay tax on.

    Regardless to say, the physical medium is not as relevant as you think. We could communicate over the electricity grid with no further infrastructure required. We could use line of sight laser beams … we could use pigeons fitted with Google maps.

    But sure, we are a developing nation, we need to spend 43 billion on a good excuse.


  3. I can’t exactly tell what side you’re on Craig, but you seem frightened and angry at things you can’t possibly comprehend.

    I’m sure the first guy to invent the wheel was greeted by the same ‘lets see what the future holds’ point of view.

  4. This attitude from the coallition will never change. Their history precedes them, as they sold out on Australian ICT professionals about 12 years ago.

    When Howard came to office, all ICT projects were canned, 1998-1999. I was at Defence-Canberra then.

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