Switkowski makes ex-Labor NBN exec redundant


news Ziggy Switkowski has made the position of a senior NBN Co executive with a Labor political history redundant and allocated his responsibilities to a former Telstra executive with close links to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in one of the NBN Co executive chairman’s first moves since taking the company’s reins.

Mike Kaiser is a former State Member of Parliament from Queensland who represented the electorate of Woodridge briefly more than a decade ago. Kaiser subsequently held a variety of positions within the Labor Party, including as chief of staff to New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh. In December 2009 Kaiser was appointed to lead Government Relations and External Affairs at the fledging NBN Co, which had been formed in April that year. Kaiser was subsequently promoted to become NBN Co’s head of quality in September 2011.

The executive’s appointment to work for NBN Co was controversial at the time, due to his Labor Party links and the fact that then-Communications Minister Stephen Conroy had suggested Kaiser for the NBN role.

In a statement issued this morning, NBN Co noted that Kaiser’s position of head of quality had “become redundant”, with Kaiser to leave the company.

The role became redundant, NBN Co wrote in the statement, because of a new appointment made by new NBN Co executive chairman Ziggy Switkowski — that of former Telstra executive JB Rousselot to the new position of head of strategy and transformation.

“This role will incorporate the current activities within the Quality group and also the corporate planning, strategy and decision support functions of the office of the Chief Finance Officer,” NBN Co wrote in its statement. “Mr Rousselot will lead the Strategic Review process that is commencing this week and then help manage the implementation of recommendations and their incorporation into the company’s 2014-17 Corporate Plan.” Rousselot will report directly to Switkowski, with the changes to take effect immediately.

“Mr Rousselot will help oversee the continuing transition process as NBN Co moves to deliver the Government’s policy of deploying a broader mix of technologies to ensure every Australian is able to receive very fast broadband,” Switkowski said.

Switkowski said of Kaiser: “Mr. Kaiser was one of NBN Co’s first employees and has fulfilled important leadership roles in the formation of NBN Co and its development over four years. He is a well regarded and committed executive having worked across the company on many of its biggest initiatives. I thank him for his many contributions and wish him well for the next phase of his career.”

The appointment of Rousselot to a senior position at NBN Co was reported last week and is considered controversial, due to the executive’s qualifications and strong links to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Rousselot was most recently the executive director of digital media and IPTV at Telstra, a position from which he departed in May 2013. Prior to that position, Rousselot held a number of other senior positions in Telstra over a period of a decade, including a post as executive director of Telstra’s Media division. Before this period, the executive was chief executive of IP telephony startup Interline, as well as working in investment (in the Australasian Media and Communications Fund), as well as working as a consultant at Booz Allen and in entertainment (Disney).

Crikey reported in June (in an article which predicted the appointment of both Milne and Rousselot to help Turnbull reshape the NBN) that Rousselot has a deep history with Turnbull, having formerly worked both at OzEmail, which Turnbull helped found, as well as Turnbull’s own boutique advisory firm Turnbull and Partners. However, in none of his many roles over his career did Rousselot work directly on deploying fundamental network infrastructure of the type NBN Co is rolling out.

The news comes as NBN Co has also made another recent similar appointment, with former Telstra executive Justin Milne also being appointed to an unknown position to assist Switkowski.

The executive was chief executive of early Australian ISP OzeMail from 1999 to 2002, in the years immediately after it was listed on the NASDAQ and the Australian Stock Exchange with Turnbull’s assistance (Turnbull helped fund and run the company throughout the 1990’s), and the pair worked at OzEmail at the same time. Turnbull sold his stake in OzEmail for $57 million in 1999 as the company was bought by US telco WorldCom.

Subsequently, Milne went on to work in senior positions at Telstra, leading the company’s BigPond ISP division and also, later, its media division, throughout the years until May 2010, when he left the telco. However, in none of those roles did the executive directly work on significant network infrastructure rollouts at Telstra.

Milne has also retained links to Turnbull over the past decade. For example, Milne was one of the speakers at a forum held by the Liberal MP in August 2010 in the suburb of Paddington in his electorate on Labor’s controversial mandatory Internet filter policy, which Milne was also personally against. In addition, Milne is known to be a supporter of the Coalition’s FTTN model. In April this year, the executive told Business Review Weekly he would choose FTTN over FTTP because it was “orders of magnitude” faster (in terms of time to rollout) and cheaper to deploy.

Crikey reported as early as June that Rousselot and Milne were being set up for roles with NBN Co. At the time, Turnbull denied any commitments had been made to anyone.

Turnbull actively avoided taking questions from the media this week on the appointments of Milne and Rousselot to NBN Co. Delimiter has filed a Freedom of Information request with NBN Co seeking any documents pertaining to the two executives’ appointment at the company.

Well, this looks like payback from an outsider’s view. Kaiser is well-known as having strong Labor links. Now Turnbull’s hand-picked new executive chairman at NBN Co has made his role redundant and integrated his responsibilities with those of new appointee who has little experience with network rollouts but close personal links to Turnbull.

I used to have faith in Turnbull to keep things largely above board. No longer. There are many questions which need to be asked here about the way things are changing at NBN Co and how this new team at the company is being appointed. From an outsider’s view, it’s hard not to be extremely cynical about the way this process is being managed.


  1. Look I think it was inevitable that Turnbull’s approach would be similar to labors. Ironically. Stack the platform with friends and politically friendly stalwarts.

    It was a bit obvious when Conroy had pushed for a few people that it was to ensure that control remained strongly stationed from the helm (Conroy) and that Labors vision would be secured (at least whilst they were in term).

    Thing is though, a project this big does need buy-in from government and a reasonably smooth orderly management process. And as much as it pains me to see the same transparent bullshit from both sides of the house, I won’t care as much if they get the job done.

    Right now, Turnbull is making a mockery of his own words and seems hell-bent on spending more time making flippant remarks, subverting NBNco efforts, and less time on that supposedly all important “faster, cheaper” thing.

  2. “I used to have faith in Turnbull”

    With all due respect Renai, did you really expect anything else. Turnbull is a Liberal politician who (as has been seen) is more concerned about his mates being on the board then anything else.
    You don’t see or hear anything about Turnbull or even Abbot for that matter on the news or anywhere.
    This review will be done and dusted to the detriment of all of us, guarantee it.
    Turnbull is full of it like the rest of them. Australia will regret their voting decisions in 12 months time and not just for the NBN!

    • “Turnbull is a Liberal politician who (as has been seen) is more concerned about his mates being on the board then anything else.”

      Such overly simplistic conclusions are less than helpful. Getting some mates jobs is hardly the end game here, it is just a strategic move for Turnbull to ensure the strategic review comes to the conclusions he needs and NBN Co is a compliant lapdog on a short leash that will do exactly as instructed.

      • lol…you just said it. Comes to the conclusion he wants and that is…getting his mates jobs.

    • +1

      Renai, how many more times will Turnbull let us down before you finally accept that he rarely if ever has the australian peoples best interests in mind?

      The number of articles you have published over the years where you finally agree turnbull’s not that great (telling outright lies, intentional misleading etc), then a within a few weeks he throws you a bone and he’s back in your good books again for a few months. He’s just dangling a ‘tasty treat’ in front of us, letting it get close then yanks it out of reach. So while we’re focused on that ‘tasty treat’, he’s leading us down a path where we dont want to be. Given he’s in fully control now, its only going to get worse.

      I have only really started following things with the NBN and politics over the past 2 elections, turnbul has shown to be a great politician, but rarely practices what he preaches and he’s just not someone you can trust, especially with the NBN.

  3. Here come the new cronies; same as the old cronies.

    Kaiser should go along with all the other ‘well connected morons’ the ALP installs anywhere they have power to abuse.
    But I am disappointed with Turnbull’s approach, seems like he really does belong with the ALP!

    • Just proves as I have been saying all along…

      Regardless of ALP or Coalition (I think independents and minor party pollies may actually have some ethics)… they are politicians.

      Anyone who thinks that now the Coaliltion are now in that the snouts in the trough and jobs for the boys will end… are fools.

      Just look at what MT is already doing and the travel rorts surfacing at the very top, if you need preliminary proof *sigh*

  4. Much like every other area the Libs are making changes, I think you’ll have trouble actually finding out what they are doing Renai. So much for Tony’s promise that his government would provide “unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability” on its infrastructure commitments.


    • Tinman, you should learn that when politicians, marketers or lawyers say things like “a quality product”, “equitable outcomes” or “unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability” that these are weasel words. Their all things measured along a continuum. A low quality product is still a ‘quality product’.
      Tony’s promise of “unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability” has surely been met, it’s just the opposite end of the scale to the one implied.

      • “Weasel words” I’m used to, it’s the “bald faced lies” that really piss me off.

  5. Renai you missed the whole point they didn’t get rid of a ‘labor stodge’ the made the position of ‘head of quality’ redundant. You don’t need a head of quality if you are no longer building a quality network. It is no different to the LNP getting read of the Science Ministry why would you need a minister for science when you’re not going to listen to what science has to say.

  6. funny, they must be reading you and the comments. i only mentioned him the other night and hes already blown off the park!

    /edit i dont know whether to be serious or snark. oh well, one nepotistic appt removed, now about all the rest (you’ve introduced)….

  7. I’ve worked in a Turnbull company. It ain’t nice at all. The place was a sweat shop. Imagine doing tech support in a warehouse, concrete floors, no air conditioning in the middle of summer whilst barely pulling in high 20s (as in $28k).

    yep that’s the business genius, the asuute business man, the clever politican. He basically runs sweatshops, and then dumps the business for a billion bucks onto a bunch of crims in the US (MCI)…he conned the cons and somehow in every bloody article i read his somehow given credibility because he ran OzEmail, like he knows anything about the internet.

  8. Guys; there is only one takeaway message from this.

    The head of Quality at NBN Co has been made redundant.

    Highly amusing :)

    Everything else is one political appointee is replaced by another political appointee, no government is better than the other in this respect. BAU for government (of both colours) etc.

    • “Mike Kaiser is a former State Member of Parliament from Queensland who represented the electorate of Woodridge briefly more than a decade ago.” briefly because he confessed to electoral fraud to the Shepardson Inquiry. Kaiser was Conroy’s eyes and ears (e.g. political spy) inside NBNco. Even Quigley would have been glad to be rid of him. “Head of Quality” is a manufactured job title. Highly amusing :)

      • Amusing, yes. Last thing they need when the are trying to use Telstras copper is a quality dept…

      • It’s always amazed me how rusted-on followers always know details about their opponents that most of us mere mortals would not really care about. This, of course, applies equally to Labor and Coalition faithfuls.

        • Indeed…

          What it does is galvanises the fact that those such as you and I Observer, are here legitimately to discuss comms in a conciliatory manner.

          However, in saying that it is obvious that we support the “real NBN” warts and all, simply because having done our own FttN/FttP comparisons, inevitably we have found that without doubt, FttP the superior (for all Aussies) and common sense approach to take. Remembering the govt costs are almost identical for the inferior, slower, Telstra owned copper based, last decade FttN as it is for the vastly superior FttP…

          Whereas a few usual suspects are obviously here with anything but conciliatory discussion in mind and simply banging their own immovable ideological drum :/

          I now await a repeat silly reply from one of these usual suspects, once again ignoring the above FttN/FttP FACTS… *sigh*

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