Petition: Get Simon Hackett onto NBN Co’s board


Want to see Simon Hackett appointed to the board of the National Broadband Network Company? So do we. That’s why we encourage you to sign a new petition set up to encourage Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to consider the Internode founder and all-round broadband guru as a candidate.

If you examine the list of candidates which have been publicly named as having been approached by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to be directors sitting on NBN Co’s new board, you’ll see a certain mediocrity. Some, such as Ziggy Switkowski, have experience leading Australia’s largest telecommunications companies, Telstra and Optus. Others, such as Wal King and Patrick Flannigan, have experience leading Australia’s largest construction companies. And others, such as former Communications Minister Helen Coonan, are members of the Liberal Party.

However, what we haven’t seen yet from any potential candidates for the post of NBN Co board director is any variety. We haven’t seen any industry candidates from outside the major telcos. We haven’t seen any candidates who are outside the box thinkers. We haven’t seen any candidates who have deep technical knowledge in the ISP and telecommunications fields. And yet, it’s easy to argue that NBN Co’s board should feature this kind of diversity.

As your writer argued in an article published on Delimiter 2.0 last week (subscriber content), Internode founder Simon Hackett would make an ideal board director:

“In many respects, it’s hard to imagine why the Coalition hasn’t already canvassed Hackett to be a NBN Co director. The executive is one of the most respected executives in Australia’s telecommunications industry; a consummate technical and business professional who was instrumental in bringing broadband competition to an industry strangled by Telstra; an executive has a passion for, and interest in, virtually everything that NBN Co does and has been able to predict the outcomes of the company’s moves ahead of time, courageously voicing his opinion despite NBN Co and various politicians trying to shout him down.

As with journalists, the role of board directors is not to say comforting things to people in powerful positions. The role of directors is to bring all their skills to the board table and speak all the truth that they know, no matter how uncomfortable, for the benefit of the organisation they represent and its stakeholders. They are wise, disciplined, outspoken counsellors that aim to stop good organisations going off the rails.

It’d be hard to find a better description than this for Simon Hackett, who’s been a wise counsellor to Australia’s telco industry for several decades. And if the Coalition is going to stack NBN Co’s board with past Telstra executives, it’d be nice to see a little energy and variety added to the mix — for example, someone who has spent the past couple of decades wrestling Telstra to get better broadband outcomes for all Australians.”

Simon Hackett truly would be the thinking man’s board director; a natural fit to bring balance to a NBN Co board likely to be stifled by former Telstra executives, ageing construction chiefs and former Liberal politicians. I’ve been speaking to Simon Hackett for the best part of the past decade in my capacity as a journalist, and I’ve yet to find an executive in the industry with a higher level of integrity, a higher level of passion, or a higher level of expertise and willingness to engage. He’s also available for NBN Co board duties, having recently formally relinquished his executive role at Internode.

More than anyone else in Australia’s telecommunications industry, Simon Hackett groks broadband and the NBN, and should be on NBN Co’s board.

So overnight, we set up a new petition on If you agree with us that Hackett would make the perfect candidate to sit on the NBN board, we encourage you to mosey over there append your name to the petition. We’ll forward it to the office of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull periodically as the level of support reaches certain levels; and you can rest assured that we’ll be reminding Turnbull and his team of the petition’s existence on a regular basis.

Image credit: Office of Simon Hackett


  1. Agree that Simon would bring much needed objectivity and a strong, independent voice to the table. Precisely why he won’t be appointed – he won’t give the LNP the unimpeded free reign they’re looking for. There’s a glaring difference between the ALP approach appointing the best people with the best mix of skills they could find and the LNP’s appointment of people who’s most important credential is their ability to allow the LNP to direct their decisions.

    • If the NBNCo under the ALP was so great why isn’t Simon Hackett part of the board then?

  2. Since he’s going to have time on his hands soon I’d rather put forward Scott Ludlam, no offense intended to Simon of course.

  3. IF he didn’t have any business interests that are directly related to the decisions made by NBNco then I would be all for this, but Mr. Hackett is a large iiNet shareholder and also on the iiNet board. There is a massive conflict of interest here and I can see that he’ll have to be excused from board meetings at times due to this conflict of interest.

    Think Eric Schmidt when he was on the Apple board.

    He is just what NBNco need (maybe even the best CEO for the company), but it just wouldn’t be logical with his current position.

    • Pretty much everyone with the credentials you’d want would have potential conflicts of interest. Ziggy for starters would need to tread VERY carefully when making decisions that seem to favor Optus and Telstra.

      I think Hackett would work BECAUSE he has those conflicts of interest. He’s going to have detailed knowledge that the others wouldnt have, and apply them with out of the box thinking.

      And if things happen that he might get an unfair benefit out of, the rest of the board is there to make sure it didnt happen. As Renai says, there arent many people in the industry with a better reputation than Hackett.

    • +1. perhaps we should get his go-ahead first…

      also, conflict of interest plays a pretty big role here.

      perhaps we should have another petition to get him on the board of telstra, for those of us who won’t get the NBN for years…

  4. I dunno if its a good idea Renai. That looks suspiciously like a Turnbull voodoo doll in the bottom right corner of that picture…

    • Where can I get a Turnbull voodoo doll, do you know? I’m pretty sure I could twist his arm (literally) into supporting FTTP :)

  5. I’m not sure that Turnbull is going to listen and the potential conflict of interest gives him a convenient excuse. He’s apparently appointing Wal King to the board, who has now been involved in corruption, according to Fairfax:

    I personally think it’s hilarious. First Turnbull accuses Mike Quigley of corruption while at Alcatel and nothing stuck. Meanwhile, a Malcolm pick it seems has been involved in corruption before he even makes it to the board.

    • (but at this point these are accusations only and the NBN Co executive includes Mike Kaiser, who had been a politician involved in branch stacking at one point)

      In any case, Simon Hackett would make a most sensible choice.

  6. Has anyone ascertained whether Simon is interested in this position and subsequently being tarred with the same brush as the coalition when this abortion of a network fails miserably and gets flogged off to Telstra?

    • I’m yet to see any real evidence of this.

      However, Simon has been pretty vocal about how he thinks that the NBN could be improved and it is obviously something that he has a personal (as well as professional) interest in.

      I suspect that he would really like to be involved, although he may not get an offer and may not be able to take up an offer anyway for other reasons (potential for conflict of interest, being busy with other things etc).

      Perhaps he pictures himself being hired as a consultant?

  7. Seems a bit late given that cabinet is meeting today to decide on the new board and CEO.

  8. I would love to see at least one person I admired (and actually had confidence in) end up on the board, and that person would defintely be Simon Hackett. I really hope this petition helps make it happen.

  9. If there is no perceived problem having a representative of iiNet on the NBN board there should be no problem in having representation from the two biggest Telco’s Telstra and Optus on the NBN board as well, as an even fairer representation of the BB customer base of Australia.

  10. Hackett’s experience and track record is certainly not in doubt, but given his continuing industry involvement it is hard to see how possible perceptions of potential future bias could be overcome.

    NBN Co had to deal with blatant political and media obstruction, but also faces some determined and entrenched commercial interests, using many ways of pushing their respective barrows.

    Because of this, it may be better to consider board members without current industry connections that could fuel such perceptions (whether justified or not).

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