You’re flat out wrong, NBN Co tells AFR


news NBN Co and two of its key contractors have categorically denied a front page report by the Financial Review this morning that the contractors weren’t bidding for the next round of NBN construction deals due to rollout delays, describing the newspaper’s report as “patently untrue”.

The Financial Review reported this morning that delays and poor planning in the rollout of the NBN have caused some of the company’s existing contractors, namely Silcar and Transfield, to decide not to compete for the next round of construction contracts which NBN Co is shortly slated to announce.

The two firms represent some of NBN Co’s most important current partners. Silcar was NBN Co’s first flagship construction contractor, with the company picking up a massive contract in June 2011 potentially worth a total of $1.1 billion over four years to roll out the NBN in NSW, Queensland and the ACT. The deal represents almost 40 percent of the national construction activity planned for the NBN over the 2011, 2012 and 2013 years.

Transfield inked a similar deal with NBN Co in September 2011 to cover Victoria. It was to be worth $133 million over the next two years, although that figure will extend up to $395 million if the contract is extended for a further two years. The Victorian contract was to see Transfield working on early stage rollout zones in locations in the state such as South Morang, Bacchus Marsh and Brunswick, where there is already an early stage NBN rollout zone.

The AFR reported: “The Australian Financial Review understands that at least two of the three winners from the first round, Silcar and Transfield, will not accept or make any offers because the NBN’s slower than expected rollout has slashed their profits while ­preventing work crews from being assigned to other jobs.”

However, NBN Co this afternoon issued a statement noting that the AFR’s claim was simply false. “The report is patently untrue as both Silcar and Transfield have confirmed independently today,” the company said. “All existing construction contractors are committed to the project and are keen to bid for additional work. Far from scaling back, the rollout of the NBN is well and truly ramping up. That’s why NBN Co wants to involve more construction companies in the rollout and create more job opportunities for Australian workers.”

Silcar has also independently issued its own statement, under the headline “Silcar rejects AFR article.” “The report in the Financial Review that Silcar is “set to abandon” the NBN is manifestly untrue,” the company said. “Silcar has tendered for specific components of the NBN offered to it and remains 100% committed to the nation building project both for the work we hav e in hand and for additional work in the future.”

NBN Co has, however, admitted that there have been delays in its rollout schedule. In April, NBN Co informed the Parliamentary Committee into the NBN that it would be revising its initial targets for its rollout as detailed in its previous corporate plan. The company has delivered a new corporate plan, including new targets, to the Government, but the plan has not yet been published publicly.

At the time, NBN Co told the committee that a number of factors on which its rollout schedule had depended, namely the availability of telephone exchange facilities to deploy its points of interconnect connections, negotiations around greenfields fibre deployment and the securing of contracts with suppliers and construction contractors, had “changed for reasons … [it] simply could not control.”

The Financial Review should be ashamed of its incredibly inaccurate report this morning that several of NBN Co’s key contractors were set to abandon their bids for further NBN construction work. A simple fact check yesterday — say, calling NBN Co or the contractors in a reasonably timely manner — would have averted the newspaper’s highly public and embarrassing error this morning. The newspaper must immediately issue a correction to its article. This is the kind of rubbish reporting which has brought Fairfax’s management into so much disrepute and one of the reasons readers continue to abandon the company for more accurate publications.

In my experience, large organisations very rarely flat out deny things to the media if they’re trying to hide something. They will delay, deflect and mislead, but they will not flat out deny. This is why I went so hard on this angle with respect to the AFR’s article today. And I still think the truth with respect to this matter still lies closer to the view expressed by NBN Co and the contractors this morning than it does to the AFR’s article.

However, I also believe it is important to note with respect to this article that I have since learned that Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s office was indeed given substantial opportunity to comment on this issue yesterday, and could have strongly denied the story at that point if it had chosen to. I understand an attempt was also made to contact NBN Co, but accounts disagree there about who said what when.

In general, as is often the case with journalism, my impression with respect to this case is that things may be a bit murkier, a bit more ‘gray’, than the black and white narrative so far has suggested.


      • @renai, why the retraction, AFR could have waited another 24 hours to confirm story but instead produced a pack FUD!

        • Have you guys noticed since the Fairfax shake up and the involvement of a mining magnate, the AFR has gone completely anti-NBN.

          Perhaps they have always been that way, but I don’t recall it being so obvious previously?

          Although I don’t read the WP forums I check the news headlines and the AFR have a number of negative NBN stories all from David Ramli who (iirc) was a journo at tech sites previously, who I don’t recall being overtly against the NBN before.


          • It’s not the mining magnate that has made the difference — it’s the fact that the AFR has imported a former editor of The Australian to be its Editor-in-Chief.

  1. The admission of error should be the front page headline “We were wrong”
    Since Gina has been buying in I note comments are no longer accepted and there has been a tendency to slavishly follow the News Ltd extreme bias
    A worry who can we believe in the media, who can we trust.?
    Basically no one

    • “A worry who can we believe in the media, who can we trust.?
      Basically no one”

      Except Renai…:)

  2. “This is the kind of rubbish reporting which has brought Fairfax’s management into so much disrepute and one of the reasons readers continue to abandon the company for more accurate publications.”

    If only there were some!

    • “If only there were some!”

      The Conversation, the Global Mail, Mumbrella, the ABC, Delimiter, Ausdroid, internationally the Guardian.

      There *are* better and more accurate options out there.

      • I’ve heard that the guy running that Delimiter site is biased as well… Probably eats babies to.

        • Crikey frequently publishes factually inaccurate material. I have followed up a number of its stories personally and do not consider it a reliable publication.

        • I’d have to agree with Renai – frankly Crikey irritates me these days with their incessant spam emails with the latest “you beaut” subscription emails every other week and the quality of the journalism isnt what it once was.

          @Renai, if you ever move to a subscription model please dont spam us with deal emails like Crikey! Also I’d pay to read your work but it’ll have to be well priced (crikey is a bit steep imo) eg starting @ around $4.95 a month. (I dont have much disposable income these days now that I have offspring to support).

          Cheers Derek

          • Yeah the Crikey subscription emails shit me as well. I will not be re-subscribing next year. I guarantee not to do the same on Delimiter.

            I have considered inviting people to pay to read Delimiter — for example, as a model which would deliver a version of the site without ads to paying subscribers — but the reality is it’s an unproven model which would be a bit complex to implement in practice. Plus there’s no need — the site as it stands makes enough money to replace my previous salary, which is really all I need ;)

          • Good to hear Renai – y’know you could always have a Premium Sub that includes exclusives like forum access (ad’s dont bother me anyway) and access to industry reports and so forth that you have collected all while keeping the “free” option.

            Might be good for some of us ICT industry types. :-)

      • Wow Renai, I’m pretty sure you dont vote Liberal :)

        Most of those publications have as much (or less) credibility than the Green Left Weekly!

        The Conversation for example is pure government funded left wing labotomy garbage.
        And if you want examples of bias, how about the Conversation pulling their article exposing that for all the talk of ‘quality journalism at Fairfax’; Fairfax ACTUALLY uses 80% AAP wire stories and has almost no independent reporting.

        This article was pulled from the Conversation, im sure it was Gina’s fault right? Or Tony Abbot? Wreckers? Snowball?

        • Historically I have voted Greens (based on refugee issues). I used to preference Labor, but since I became a small business owner I have preferenced the Coalition.

  3. “This is the kind of rubbish reporting which has brought Fairfax’s management into so much disrepute and one of the reasons readers continue to abandon the company for more accurate publications.”

    I thought that Fairfax was increasing its online readership while losing hard copy readers.

    I don’t know that News publications or the majority of the main stream media are any better either.

    And they want me to pay to read this BS.


    This stuff continues to display to me the ultimate reason the Coalition are likely to get into power…..lazy and biased reporting.

    Keep it up Renai. You’re one of the few decent voices out here….

  5. Oh, and by the way….

    Same reporter…..reporting that copper services will “still be more popular in the middle of the NBN rollout”…, REALLY??? The ONLY alternative 70% of Australia has, copper, will STILL be the main carrier while NBNCo. is still building and switching on areas???

    This guy should be ashamed….and better yet, fired.

    • 7 T
      I wonder, (maybe too many chess games)
      Telstra’s pricing for the NBN includes Plus Copper line rental. meaning it will be quite expensive to change to NBN, Plus their refusal to connect Tassie customers on the NEC ONT plus their rush into installing top hats, plus their drive to sign up new customers.

      Taken in toto the possibility of a sabotage play with the end goal that due to low take up rate, NBN is canned by Libs and Telstra gets the assets for a song.

      Tough business play but not illegal, boost their share price and the T2 suckers might get some of their value back

      • No question Telstra is trying to play both sides Abel.

        Whether they’re ACTIVELY seeking to destroy the NBN to get the Libs back in though, is not only VERY murky but also almost impossible to prove. It really is disgusting what lengths some people/companies will go to in order to increase profit- even to the detriment of an entire nation.

        As the saying goes and I’ve posted before “I’m certain we could explore the galaxy….if we’d just stop being dicks for like 5 minutes….”

      • Haha I just saw your comment above :) it appears you beat me to it. Indeed, great minds do think alike :D
        I love how they included a comment from Turnbull but no comment from Labor / NBN Co.

  6. Of course they haven’t included a comment from Labor….why would AFR want to know what Labor thinks?

    It’s not like they’re a legitimate party that’s running the country in a split parliament….

  7. I’m impressed the AFR is going to get away with this. This is some pretty serious dribble.

    Incidentally, it was the AFR that started the rumor that Vodafone Group was going to sell VHA… still complete bullshit, but along the same line.

  8. Have posted a brief update to this story — turns out Conroy’s office at least was contacted in advance. NBN Co had some notice, but not much.

      • He hasn’t denied it either, he has had ample time to refute it. Time to publish the article!

          • ‘well-known industry sources’ have stated that it definitely could be considered a possible fact.

            You have failed to deny it, so now we can all quote it !

          • Seriously though, this is how FUD works. Original comment “probably eats babies” morphs into “I heard he eats babies” and through a lack of confirmation “industry sources have stated he eats babies”…

            Eventually its deemed a known fact that he eats babies, and people know its true because they read it “all over the place”. All without any evidence, and just a morphing from the first comment, often made in jest as is the case here.

            Old game of chinese whispers, known these days by the more politically correct name of telephone, where a comment morphs as it goes through the chain. And tech reporting is rife with it.

            Tomorrow’s AFR headline – “Senior tech analyst shown to be a cannibal” with a retraction hidden somewhere on page 37 on Monday.

          • “Tomorrow’s AFR headline – “Senior tech analyst shown to be a cannibal” with a retraction hidden somewhere on page 37 on Monday.”

            Also included on the same page, in the same vein: “Respected tech site becomes conduit for new cannibalistic cult- Senior commenters seen raising proceeds from “organ harvesting””

            ……retraction not required- can’t be proven anyone didn’t “see” them doing such a thing

          • Well, it would have to be a reference to one in of the pages that have Renai as a reference. Hmmm, just discovered I’m on wikipedia. Oh well, it doesn’t say anything nasty.

          • The Wikipedia circle of life.

            Someone posts a “fact” on Wikipedia.
            Website A references “fact” from Wikipedia.
            Website B references “fact” from Website A.
            In the meantime someone flags “fact” on Wikipedia asking for attribution.
            Wikipedia attributes “fact” to Website B thus completing the Wikipedia circle of life.

    • Is it reasonable to expect that Conroy should know the contracting details of NBNCo?

      Admittedly these are big contracts, but if he’s at arms length to a supposedly independent entity, then I would be more concerned if he did know of commercial contractual matters, particularly regarding future activities.

      If I were Conroy, I’d be saying : “How would I know? It’s a business matter within NBNCo. Go speak to them.”.

    • Not sure if Conroy’s office shares my sense of humour, but if I was was notified that someone was about to publish a heap of rubbish I would either “accidently” respond too late or say something cryptic to egg them on, then publish a Delimiteresque accurate response that makes them look like a bunch of ameturs. :)

  9. Wow.. I’m really surprised just how low these publications can go now, with nothing being done to them because the ‘big boys’ of the media are all going with the same agenda.

    Also reading the article, no one has made a tweet at his (@Davidramli) as far as I can tell, I’d of thought there would be a barrage of things! Or else he’s just blocking them from his feed or something (I barely use Twitter so I’m unsure how it really works!)

  10. I believe they recently picked up Michael Stutchbury, the former op-ed editor at The Australian, and since then there has been a constant stream of stories of corporate titans expressing “concern” about Julia Gillard and her anti-business ways (despite making so much money they don’t know what to do with it). I’m pretty sure the anti-NBN stuff is just an ex-Murdoch hack, not exactly doing Rupert’s bidding, but of such a similar mindset that it makes no difference, continuing what he knows best.

    Look to see many stories about uncertainty, concern, fears, maybes from CEOs with links to the LNP about how high structural costs (wages) are forcing them to consider off-shore (as if they’d go anywhere else).

  11. And again, AFR, uncredited. Seems someone has a vendetta. Even bring up a future wireless technology that is 1000 times faster than today “Data In Data Out”. DIDO wireless is not a general use wireless like 3G or 4G. It’s a way to avoid interference between adjacent wireless access points using the same frequencies. Yes it could work like 3G or 4G but you’d need one access point per household.

  12. Great – in order to comment on the ZDNet story I would need to register. Not impressed.

  13. To be charitable, Stephen Conroy and his office might have been trying to solve the boat people embarrassment yesterday.

    • By providing internet services they didnt need, at three times the amount they currently pay? :p

    • Transfield might have a case if AFR can’t back it up as a public traded company reporting of this type might have a negative impact on the company value.

Comments are closed.