Why Ziggy Switkowski shouldn’t
be appointed to run NBN Co



blog Over the past several days there’s been a plethora of articles speculating that Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is about to appoint former Telstra and Optus chief executive Ziggy Switkowski to run NBN Co as the company’s executive chairman. However, as I write on Delimiter 2.0 this morning (subscriber content), this would be a terrible idea and an incredibly hypocritical move for Turnbull. A key paragraph:

“Ziggy Switkowski spent just one year at Optus during a time of chaos, led Telstra into a deep stasis in the 2000′s and hasn’t touched the telecommunications industry for the past decade. And yet Communications Minister-elect Malcolm Turnbull reportedly thinks he’d make a great choice to run the National Broadband Network Company. Can I please have some of what he’s smoking?”

If you closely examine Switkowski’s extended and recent history, what becomes clear is that he’s not really qualified to take on this role. Of course, it’s all speculation at this point, with the new Cabinet not having been sworn in, and Communications Minister-elect Malcolm Turnbull not yet able to take any concrete action yet on behalf of Tony Abbott’s new Government. But the issue is certainly hot enough to discuss; and the name “Ziggy” is certain to awaken memories in Australia’s telecommunications industry.

Image credit: Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency


  1. Puppet comes to mind as a reason?…

    Probably conspiracy theory stuff I know. But I agree there’s no other decent reason to appoint him (nothing of experience, qualifications or reputation), so…..

          • any ideas as to who should be considered? would be interested to see that list…

          • Call me a fanboy if you so choose but I think Simon Hackett would be a safe pair of hands.

          • Really? You don’t think Simon’s large shareholding in Iinet would disqualify him in terms of conflict of interest?

          • The world would certainly be a different place if assessments of character were able to supersede conflicts of interest :)

          • Simon has not just integrity, but he also has the technical knowledge and a desire to see the best internet service possible.

            I strongly believe that Simon would be capable of creating a level playing field, trusting that iiNet has the people, processes and network to succeed. His conflicts of interest would be significantly less now that he no longer directly owns Internode and could be acceptable if he changed to being purely a shareholder.

  2. Wow can anyone say conflict of interest? I guess it could influence NBN Co to be more amenable and cooperative with Telstra – we welcome our new competitive overlords who will undermine us from the inside out…

  3. I think Ziggy would be perfect for GimpCo. They are going down the obsolete copper path so Ziggy will fit right in bringing that special brand of magic that made Telstra so great. I’m sure he can achieve the easy goals set out by the coalition in 1205 days too else there is going to be many in desperate need of faster than ADSL2+ speeds sooner who are going to be very disappointed. I’ll be one of them :-)

  4. Malcolm has always said the NBNCo needs someone with experience running a Telco. He never said it needs someone with experience running a telco well.

    • Is running a telco short for running it into the ground?

      Only one person can claim credit for almost bankrupting one telco and then wiping over 60% off the share price of another.

  5. Whom ever takes this on, will have a huge responsibility to the people of Australia, After all we are talking about “The Backbone” of communications in this country, and it is extremely important for our future!

    • I meant to add, Having said that, Who would want to be in that position with Malcolm looking over your shoulder

    • Turnbul will turn over the NBNco to Telstra with Ziggy’s help, we are all going to pay through the nose for broadband & Telstra will have a virtual monopoly like they have had with the copper. This time they are not only going to have wireless in their kit they will have the cables as well. Just watch the prices soar like power and gas has. Telstra will cripple competition. NBNco was developed to break Telsra’s grip. It all might sound big brother but we all know how powerful Telstra is. I am sure Mr Turnbull believes we the average Joe don’t deserve fast, cheap communications…..That’s for people like him!

  6. Ziggy was in charge when Telstra first rolled out Telstra Cable Internet right?

    Those were the days of 100 megabyte usage quotas, and 18c per megabyte after the cap charges. Those were fun times. (The 3 months before they could figure out how to measure usage weren’t bad though)

  7. Come on the guys most deserved who have said all the right things, never swayed (even in the face of overwhelming laughter) and even chewed with their mouths closed too, are Morgan – CEO, Ergas – CFO and Flude (don’t ask) – CIO…

    The 3 new amigos…

    Maybe Ziggy as COO, though?

    Personally IMO Quigley is (was) streets ahead of them all. Pity MT wasn’t smart enough to bag the NBN (as his politics dictated he must) but not burn the bridge with such a knowledgable man…!

  8. I think I pointed to the likely appointment of Ziggy as CEO in this forum some time ago.
    Certainly I have said so in other forums.

    My reasoning is somewhat different to Turnbull’s PUBLIC comments however.

    Ziggy was appointed to Telstra for the sole purpose of setting it up to maximize the sale price.
    This generally means slashing staff, maintenance and infrastructure build to maximize the balance sheet.
    Unfortunately, the government was unable to deliver the the sale on schedule, but Ziggy was more than happy to continue the slash and burn long after the cracks became obvious and it actually began detracting from the share price.
    That this action was very prejudicial to the long term performance, profitability and corporate image of the company was irrelevant. What Ziggy had been told to do he did, no questions asked.

    Ziggy was again called in when the government of the day needed a report saying that uranium mining was a good thing. Entirely by fortuitous coincidence, the report generated by Ziggy was almost identical to what the government outlined prior to the investigation.

    The first activity required of the new CEO of NBNco is going to be a report on the financial status of the company and a recommendation for the technology going forward. The government has bet the farm by way of technological credibility on the outcome of that report. Do you really think it would be put in the hands of someone without a track record of obedience and finding the “right” answer for any report requested?

  9. Ziggy might be construed as a man from the past
    Turnbull’s man! So to speak
    However T does have a clear mandate to finish the NBN as economically as possible

    So if not Ziggy, who do you suggest. Its easy to knock someone down but it makes sense to suggest someone with the right skills and knowledge to do the job

    This concept that optical fire is the only solution is just geeky thinking. The fibre that is used today will not be the same that is used in 10 years time. As long as the infrastructure is close to the premises then fibre can be installed when its really needed

    • @Greg

      If FTTP is just ‘geeky thinking’ why are 75% of telcos rolling it out for anywhere between 30% and 90% of premises in countries around the world?

      Also, you say the fibre used today is not the same as fibre used in 10 years time. 2 things:

      1- The only significant difference is the purity of the silica that makes it up. And it is at about 99.99% purity now. Sure it might be 99.999% in 10 years leading to a 1 in million failure instead of 1 in 100 000. But that’s it.

      2- With that logic, we should never have installed copper. Because the copper installed in the 1950’s isn’t as good as today’s copper….

      Do you see how those arguments don’t work?

    • Hi Greg,

      You are wrong; I’ve talked to an optic fibre expert (as in; an optic communications expert – he isn’t a computing expert) and he says that the fibre they are laying down now is exactly the kind of fibre that will be in use in 10 years.

      The advancement in fibre technology usually only effects things like flexibility. So you are right; in 10 years they would use the 10year-improved optic fibre, but in terms of capablities they will be identical.

      Don’t misunderstand what fibre is; its a conduit for light. All the “fancy improvements” that occur are in the expensive boxes at either end. Once you lay the fibre (the expensive part of the NBN) upgrading the boxes at either end is relatively cheap. Fibre is the ultimate future proof communications equipment.

      There isn’t even a theoretical replacement fixed-wire communications technology that might be 15 years off. There is no technological advancement even predicted in the next 25 years that beats fibre. There is only Science Fiction technologies.

      The closest I have ever heard of as an “improvement” over fibre, would shave less than a tenth of a millisecond from latency (and provide no increased bandwidth) if deployed FTTP-style, and currently requires a system that maintains a vacuum for every fibre. (its basically optic wave-guides. that require a vacuum). Completely unnecessary (no one notices a tenth of a millisecond except for High Frequency Trading bots).

  10. Ziggy is also unashamedly pro-nuclear power for Australia. Another dinosaur technology that needs to put to bed for once and for all.

    • Whoa, nuclear power is starting to make some real sense from what I’ve heard – just because the old designs had issues doesn’t meant he concept is flawed.

  11. As a telecommunications executive, Ziggy makes a great nuclear scientist!
    He made a mess of Optus (made it a Telstra look-alike, which is a terrible strategy for any challenger), then made an even worse mess of Telstra by neglecting any proper long or medium term investment.

    Not a good choice as either chairman or CEO of NBNCo unless you want the enterprise to under-perform or fail!

    • “Not a good choice as either chairman or CEO of NBNCo unless you want the enterprise to under-perform or fail!”

      Well, that makes it almost a certainty, then. Sportsbet on Ziggy, anyone?

Comments are closed.