Reversal: Switkowski admits Tassie NBN contracts specified FTTP

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ziggy

news NBN Co executive chairman Ziggy Switkowski has been forced to retract a statement he made earlier this month regarding the company’s network rollout contracts in Tasmania, admitting yesterday that the contracts did specify Labor’s preferred Fibre to the Premises network model was to be used in the state.

Many Tasmanians believe the Coalition, specifically Malcolm Turnbull, committed the Coalition’s Broadband Network rollout (CBN) in the state to a full FTTP deployment during last year’s Federal Election campaign. Turnbull never explicitly made such a promise; stating only that a Coalition Government would honour construction contracts signed by NBN Co. Some, including the media and some Liberal politicians, took this statement to mean that the Coalition would commit to a full rollout of Fibre to the Premises broadband in the state.

As the issue became a hot topic in the Tasmanian election, with both Tasmanian Liberal Leader Will Hodgman and incumbent Labor Premier Lara Giddings pleading with Turnbull to ensure the state received a full FTTP rollout, and not a partial Fibre to the Node or to the Basement rollout, Switkowski gave a high-profile radio interview with the ABC in Tasmania several weeks ago.

At the time, Switkowski told the ABC that NBN Co’s contracts with its construction partners in the state — principally Visionstream — never stipulated a Fibre to the Premises model would be used. However, in a hearing held by the Senate Select Committee into the National Broadband Network this week, Switkowski was forced to change his tune on the issue, acknowledging that the contracts did, in fact, stipulate a FTTP model.

“I want to talk about Tasmania for a second,” former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told Switkowski. “You went on radio and said that the contracts did not specify fibre to the premises. I want to be clear about that. My understanding is that the contractors announced to the stock exchange that they were hired to build fibre to the premises. So I am confused about whether you have read the contracts or the companies misled the stock exchange.”

“My language needed to be more precise,” said Switkowski. “When the contract was composed, the only technology that was contemplated was fibre to the premises. There was no alternative being considered.”

“But the contract is written, as all these contracts are to provide the flexibility to the service partner and to NBN Co to vary any number of dimensions. There is history that we have done that in many cases. My interpretation of the contract, which has been confirmed, is that, while initially being a contract to deliver fibre to the premises, the contract provided room to change technologies.”

Conroy pointed out that the contract with Visionstream specified, for instance, the fibre lengths involved in the rollout, “because by definition you need to hire them to lay sufficient length of fibre to each home”. “I presume you would have purchased enough fibre to reach the homes, given it was a purely fibre-to-the-home rollout,” he said.

Newly appointed NBN Co chief operating officer Greg Adcock responded that the contract was structured around population, but that no specific amounts of fibre had been detailed. “The supply chain works on volume rolling forward on forecasts. There were no specific amounts; there were just projection volumes,” he said.

The revelations appear set to re-open the issue ahead of Tasmania’s state election scheduled to be held tomorrow.

Tasmanian Liberal Leader Will Hodgman made the extraordinary admission in mid-February that the Federal Coalition’s unpopular broadband policy could cost the party the election. However, at this stage the Liberal Party is expected to win the election comfortably.

Labor Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings has accused the Coalition Federal Government of having “conned the Tasmanian public” with respect to its plans for the Coalition’s Broadband Network project in the state, having failed to commit to a full Fibre to the Premises rollout despite the State Government’s willingness to work with Canberra on the issue.

Labor senator for Tasmania Anne Urquhart last week introduced a Bill into Federal Parliament that would, if passed, require NBN Co to continue its fibre-to-the-premises rollout in Tasmania.

The Tasmanian population is highly aware of broadband as an issue and has consistently raised its voice on the broadband topic as a unified group far louder than other states have. Broadband was also a critical issue in the state during the 2010 Federal Election. Tasmania has historically suffered from very poor levels of high-speed broadband compared with mainland areas, partially due to an unwillingness by rival telcos to invest because of high backhaul prices charged by Telstra across Bass Strait.

After the 2010 Federal Election, former Howard-era Minister Peter Reith produced a report on the Coalition’s election loss. The majority of the report did not mention broadband, but one section quotes extensively from a similar report produced last year by Sydney academic Julian Leeser into the Tasmanian leg of the election, which has been reported in brief.

“The failure to properly explain the Liberal Party’s broadband policy and the Labor Party’s effective scare campaign was a major cause of the party’s failure to win seats in Tasmania,” the report stated. “This was the nearly universal review of people making submissions to the review and is borne out by research undertaken by the Liberal Party. In the view of many, the party’s policy amounted to a threat to come into people’s homes and rip the Internet out of the wall.”

Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting

32 COMMENTS

  1. Why the fuck didn’t the ALP table a bill requiring NBNCo to roll out FTTP for the whole country when they had the chance to

    • As much as I wished we would all get FTTP. it would be incredibly irresponsible of the government. What’s the stop the LNP from doing something similar?

      • The thing is, if the LNP manage to gain control of both houses, I can see them doing exactly that to lock is OUT of FTTP if it looked like they were to lose an upcoming election.

    • Every time I’ve gone back to check Malcolm’s phrasing on anything he is believed to have said you will find the words “perhaps”, “I hope”, “aspirational”, “it could be interpreted …”, “one could believe”, “common sense would suggest”.

      It’s hard to pin him down on anything except that he isn’t a straight talker.

    • Yes, Turnbull lied. NBN Co lied. Ziggy lied. The only thing different in Ziggys case is that he got called out on it.
      Sadly, there seems to be very little interest in calling out Turnbull directly for his lying. He went to an election saying he would complete a contract that clearly stipulated that FTTP was to be rolled out. He reneged on that very soon after being elected. Apparently its the Tasmanian publics fault that they took him at his word, and they are to blame for “misinterpreting”, not the minister who actually lied.

  2. And this just proves what i have said all along that Turnbull is a fucking liar. Ahh what a great day..

    • turnbull didn’t lie. this article isn’t even about him. its debatable even that ziggy lied and the article title is very misleading. sensationalist reporting, and illiterate commenters falling for it.

      you may not like it, but its not a lie if the contract didn’t specify fttp. if fttp was all that was available, then it probably didn’t say it. it assumed it.

      im not a ziggy fan but really renai, your title is misleading and its something id expect from a major paper/tv news.

      • “My interpretation of the contract, which has been confirmed, is that, while initially being a contract to deliver fibre to the premises, the contract provided room to change technologies”

        So, the contract provided room to change something that wasn’t specified in the contract? Clutching at straws there aren’t you?

  3. Tasssie …forget your NBN because the LNP will twist and turn and tell any lie until you give up.. They are only interested in the election. For example they have cynically pulled the old forester trick that caused so much trouble the last time. They don’t care about forests and foresters they are just taking them for a ride so they will vote for LNP. Once the election is over its all over red rover for Tassie..!!

  4. Uh yeah… “Election eve poll puts Tasmanian Liberals on track for majority government”
    Vote them in.. Get given second hand slop.. Whinge.. Vote them in again.

  5. Who is paying for this project again? If the people want FTTP then why does the government want to give us something cheaper that is not future proof?

    The Liberal/Labour party should cut out the crap and actually supply what the people want, it is our money not theirs.

    • Unfortunately Jocler, people are idiots. if the govt did that Australia would go down the toilet faster than a runny turd. though both labor and liberal sometimes aren’t much different from that.

    • That’s just it though, tax payers aren’t paying for it, internet users will.
      Tax payers are lending the money, but ultimately internet users are paying for it. Which ultimately means ask this talk of cheaper is complete shit.

      Just like how we have no control over the cost of paying for power lines, we have no choice. We won’t have a choice of fixed line, and if it means we have a world .. equaling (not quite beating) network, we will be better for it.

  6. I don’t know what all the whinging is about. The Coalition has made their policy pretty clear — they’ll do everything in their power to avoid FTTP. If Tasmanians don’t like that, don’t vote for them on Saturday. The Feds will start changing their tune pretty bloody quick if they see their policy is actually costing them votes, even if it is only at a State level.

  7. Just to be clear, the Liberals will get in over the weekend in SPITE of their crap broadband policy, not because of it. This is clearly a case of the lesser of two evils for the state, the impact the state election would have on the outcome Malcolm’s personal anti-FTTP vendetta is negligible anyway, this current dialogue around aerial fibre etc is just a stunt with no real merit behind it. I will enjoy Malcolm slowly falling in his slowband sword over the next few years, it would be a laughable legacy to leave behind if only it wasn’t such a serious piece of infrastructure, he is changing the future of the country for the worse, and it’s terrible…..

    • I stand by my opinion that most of the voting public are idiots or don’t care outside of what media feeds them.

      I find it amusing that people are throwing out Labor/Green because their sick of them and the “lack of jobs” And yet at the same time the incument their voting in has been responsible for a wide range of job losses in their first few months.

      But it wasn’t their fault… it was the previous governments fault!. Right… we have a global recession w/ massive job losses and australia comes out “fairly fine” but it’s the “government at the time’s” fault for everything that goes wrong. A new lot comes in and suddenly it’s somebody else’s?

      Sorry… last time I checked your responsible for what happens in YOUR terrm. Whether external factors helped or not…. or is it a bit to inconvenient to take responsibility?

  8. Unless you are a lawyer, accountant, or very rich, fuck you. Sorry just repeating the Liberal mantra.

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