With the fate of his company hanging in the balance depending on who wins the Federal Election this Saturday, NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley took a range of questions from the media yesterday after a landmark speech slamming the Coalition’s broadband policy.
In a speech to the Australian Computer Society in Sydney yesterday afternoon, Quigley stated explicitly that it was “better to invest $27 billion” — the amount that the Government expects to invest itself in the NBN — rather than “spend $6 billion” as the Coalition is planning to do under its own policy. The full speech – in which Quigley attacked various aspects of the Coalition’s statements, including its claim that the NBN is a “white elephant” – can be found in full online.
Quigley said on Saturday night he would be doing what “probably most people in Australia will be doing – watching the election”.
“With some interest,” he chuckled.
The executive said he had not met directly with the Coalition on a contingency plan if Labor loses the election and the NBN project is scrapped – apart from occasions when he took questions directly from Opposition senators in the regular Senate Estimates Committee hearings.
As for Quigley’s own fate, should the NBN project be cancelled, he said it was “impossible to answer” whether he would stay on under a Coalition Government.
Labor has made much of the progress of the NBN, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard visiting an early fibre release site this week in Townsville to oversee the initial phases of construction of the fibre network and to reiterate that a Coalition government would cancel the project.
However, Quigley denied that the choice of first release sites had been made on the basis of the lcoation of marginal seats. “I can tell you absolutely categorically that the choice that was made on the first release sites — and here I’m talking about Willunga, and Brunswick, and Townsville and Armidale — was made with no suggestions or proposals from the government at all,” he said.
“They were made by the folks at NBN Co, most of whom are engineers and wouldn’t know a marginal seat if they tripped over one.”
Other topics covered in the Q&A session include:
- The ongoing debate about the cost of the NBN
- NBN Co’s business case
- NBN Co’s progress on satellite rollouts
- Whether the private sector has failed in telecommunications
- Fibre versus wireless technologies