News Corp CFO to lead NBN Co’s financials



news The National Broadband Network has taken the extraordinary step of hiring one of the most senior executives of media organisation News Corp Australia to be its new chief financial officer, in a move which appears destined to bolster theories about the Coalition’s close connections with the Murdoch publishing empire.

This morning NBN Co announced the appointment of Stephen Rue to the position of chief financial officer. In a statement, NBN Co’s new chief executive Bill Morrow said:“Stephen is a well-credentialed senior finance executive who has managed a business through a complex and high profile transformation. His transparent approach is welcome at a time NBN Co continues to accelerate on its delivery. Stephen is an enthusiastic and engaging executive and I look forward to working with him.”

Rue will report directly to Morrow as a member of NBN Co’s Executive Committee and will join the team on 1 July.

Rue is well known in Australia’s media landscape as one of the most senior executives at News Corp Australia, the local division of global media organisation News Corp. His LinkedIn profile shows that he served the publisher as chief financial officer from June 2003 through September 2013. He held other senior roles at News Corp dating back to 1998, and served as a director of the company’s joint venture Foxtel for a year until September 2013.

The executive was also chairman of the Melbourne Storm for three years from mid-2010, and has a history as a senior audit manager at accounting firm Arthur Anderson through the 1980’s and 1990’s.

He will replace previous NBN Co chief financial officer Robin Payne, a respected executive who joined NBN Co in 2009 as general manager of Planning & Development and was eventually appointed chief financial officer. Payne was outed from NBN Co as part of an extensive management reshuffle in April that also saw the company’s head of commercial Kevin Brown, chief technology officer Gary McLaren and master network architect Peter Ferris leave the company.

The news of Rue’s appointment will be interpreted by much of Australia’s telecommunications sector as confirming what had previously been seen as speculation or even conspiracy theory that the current Coalition Federal Government was seeking to water down Labor’s ambitious FTTP NBN project to protect the existing interests of industry giants such as News Corp, especially the company’s Foxtel cable television joint venture with Telstra.

In his biography published last week, former independent MP Rob Oakeshott explicitly claimed there was a connection between the Coalition’s broadband policies and News Corp.

The Coalition’s policy has the “potential to return millions and millions of dollars in future profits” to News Limited and Telstra through Foxtel, Oakeshott reportedly wrote in the book. “As much as I have personal regard for Malcolm Turnbull, I think his telecommunications policy is wholly owned by Telstra and News Limited. It does nothing for consumers, and is a massive win for a couple of corporate boards.”

A comprehensive study of public attitudes towards Labor’s National Broadband Network project published in February by the University of Melbourne found the initiative enjoyed very high levels of widespread public support from ordinary Australians, despite what the study described as an “overwhelmingly negative” approach to the project by print media such as newspapers, including News Corp newspapers such as The Australian and the Daily Telegraph, which have run consistent campaigns against the NBN project.

Under the Coalition’s current broadband policy, which has been modified drastically since the Federal Election, NBN Co is likely to acquire the HFC cable networks owned by both Telstra and Optus, entrenching the strength of those networks and making them the default mode of network access in much of Australia’s metropolitan area. Foxtel uses Telstra’s cable network currently, as well as satellite access in rural areas, to distribute its content to customers.

Rue’s appointment runs directly contrary to comments made by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull prior to the election that he would seek new management for NBN Co which had direct experience with the telecommunications sector, with Rue appearing to lack such experience. In addition, Rue’s appointment also comes as a number of executives who have had close links to Turnbull or the Coalition have been appointed to senior positions at NBN Co.

Wow. Just wow. The message being sent here couldn’t possibly be clearer. And I think at this point we can all see what it is. I am sure Stephen Rue is a highly competent and respected executive in his field. But just wow.

Image credit: NBN Co


  1. Another job for one of Mal’s mates…

    Nothing to see here, move along people…


  2. Welcome to blatant cronyism. They aren’t even trying to hide it any more.

    How the heck can anyone stop this before the next election? In Opposition, the Coaltion would have torn Labor to shreds … it was bad enough when Mike Kaiser was appointed liason for NBNCo back int he day.

    But with the new management …. again and again and again. It’s unbelievable.

    • @Murdoch

      That only works when you have the media on your side. The LNP basically has total control thanks to ABC just bending over. Labor MPs could go on the attack hard but it just wouldn’t be covered by the mainstream media. The only alternatives are too minor too matter, as unfortunate as that is.

    • I thought nepotism was a form of corruption and therefore illegal in Australia (apart from QLD since they abolished the CMC)

    • Rupert’s employees have now progressed from hacking phones of the deceased in the UK to financing the burial of NBN’s corpse.

  3. It just keeps getting better and better.

    Next thing you know, Murdoch himself (or one of his high level knights) will be appointed to the executive board to ensure that the government keeps following the doctrine of News Corp!

    We are no longer Australia…. All Hail the United States of Australia!

  4. “His transparent approach”

    Yeah, “transparent”, but not in a good way. These revolving-door execs know which side their bread is buttered. Another cuckoo in the nest.

  5. Job for the boys.
    Stealth takeover of NBN.
    Profit before equity.
    Use of Tax Payer money incorrectly.

    p.s. I TOLD YOU SO!

    • Its been prepared to be sold off in asset sale

      ATM you have people being appointed to the role and just collecting cheques to show up to board meeting until NBN is sold off

      So much for Simon Hackett should stayed on the IINET board

  6. It was probably just he was best qualified for the job. How could you go past a CV with “10 years experience maximising profits for News Corp”. Isn’t that what the goal of the current MTM is? ;)

  7. I agree the conclusion is all but impossible to avoid: we don’t have a government so much as crony capitalists; they are only interested in their corporate constituency and the rest can go take a jump. If this lot get fired next election I fully expect they will very quickly be filling seats for their paymaster, either directly in or as lobbyists for.

    Can we start doing something about the outsize influence of money and power by corporates? This is another facet of the problem identified in the Chromecast piece; fewer voices and less competition in media as result of rationalisation into a few mega entities. It is even clearer now there is such a thing as too big; they just become safe operators cloning each other, and getting into the political game to ensure they can keep going in the fashion they have become accustomed to. There was a time when AT&T was broken up after falling in this trap, but I have little hope that can be repeated today.

    In any case I am heartily sick of the direction taken at Nbnco. I don’t want it flogged off to Telstra but some form of dismantling is starting to look more and more necessary to get it back to what it should be: producing the best network for long term operation of Australian comms, at an appropriate cost, and with service levels for future head room, without needing to come back and redo the job. Its insulting that having refused for many years to do such work themselves private industry is now sticking its oar into a public entity to ensure they continue with no obligation to do the work, and are in fact protected from any threat of the work might be done ‘too well’ and wreck their cosy status quo. Future te ipsum et caballum tuum.

    • futue even… damn autocorrect

      addendum; i have just read this: CTO appointed is Dennis Steiger – from Shaw Communications in Canada – an HFC expert.

      really isnt hard to see where this is going.

  8. All we need now is for Lachlan Murdoch to be appointed and the jobs done.. !
    MTN. Murdoch, Turnbull Network..

  9. Gee, I wonder whether the ABC will cover this, except maybe as a ‘he said’ (we don’t need ‘she said’ any longer, it’s old-fashioned) 300 word news and that’s it article on the ABC website.

    Actually, I already know the answer to that one!

  10. ABC response.. We will be asking Mr Turnbull about this on Q&A …IF .. We have time.. (Probably not)..

  11. In other more entertaining news, Turnbull’s office sent out a pile of emails about:

    > On June 19, I will be joining St Vinnies in their annual CEO sleepout – business and political leaders used to warm beds will be sleeping outdoors on a chilly winter night to raise money for the homeless.

    And here’s the most fun thing, the image they attached to it:

    Point a, I’m pretty sure that’s not what a CEO sleepout will look like. And point b, I’m pretty sure that’s the worst photoshop job I’ve ever seen outside of China’s government.

    • I’m not sure I agree with either of your last two points.

      a) what would a CEO sleepout look like? I think this is pretty much right. A bunch of people in lots of expensive warm clothing getting a bad night’s sleep on a box.
      b) I don’t see anything to suggest photoshopping. the lens is probably wide open, as the light will be dim, so there’s a narrow plane of focus. There seem to be multiple light sources, making the shadows fairly weak, but they look to fall in right directions.

      • Neck, cropping on the right side, hands completely wrong, size of the head.

        That said, never mind. Let’s be on-topic, sorry about the divergence off into a random field by the wayside.

        • OK, I’ve done some more research and it seems he was at a past one of these. While I’m convinced that this particular picture is a Photoshop, I’m OK with it as it represents reality near enough. If you want to delete, Renai, feel free, and sorry about the diversion.

  12. Well if the ABC don’t cover this in depth then I’m putting on the tinfoil hat and joining the conspiracy theorists.

    Seriously, this is an incredible development.

    This government has become a kleptocracy.

    We are about to witness the largest transfer of public capital and control to Telstra & News.

    This will make Suharto stuffing $Billions into suitcases look like a raid of the stationery cupboard.

    • One for the conspiracists.

      Rue was a director of foxtel up to the month the LNP won the election…. Coincidence?

    • Suharto
      Imelda Marcos with thousands of shoes.
      Bhagwan and Rajneesh [if you didn’t watch 60 Minutes in about 1985 don’t worry about it]

      But they were all rank amateurs. One would come to surpass them all. The ultimate Kleptocrat:

      Malcolm “Bligh” Turnbull.

  13. Wow… just wow. Is there anything we can do about this? More than just complaining. Is there a legal recourse somewhere?

  14. because just co-owning a boat with someone on the board of the NBN who happens to own a large sum of Telstra shares wasn’t corrupt enough

  15. Not. Even. Remotely. Surprising.

    “Wow. Just Wow”?

    Not “wow” for any of us who have long understood the real intentions of Abbott, Turnbull et al.

    Entirely expected and worse to come.

    Reserve the wows for the almost complete lack of resistance by most of Australia to the rape and pillaging of our largest infrastructure project. Truly wow, just wow….

  16. Unless this is covered by the media, it’ll be curtains for the NBN, because if nobody complains about it, it’ll be seen as a clear signal that they can get away with even more outrageous behaviour.

  17. I don’t… i don’t… i don’t want to live in this country anymore.

    I’m finishing up my masters soon, my prospects overseas are looking better and better.

    • You won’t have any difficulty finding another country with a science minister.

  18. Why doesn’t it say “Joke” or “April’s fools” at the start of the article?

    So Malcolm’s mess will be expanding the network that Foxtel runs over by, what, 300% or something? And this guy was a director of that, right up until it was confirmed that the Coalition would be in power.

    Isn’t this an obvious case of conflict of interest?

  19. Just waiting for the Murdochracy to “buy” NBN Co giving Murdoch control of the internet so he can sell us “internet plans” and blocking free Media (anti competitive) sites whilst trying to charge for his, no more “Game of Thrones” downloads when PTP is shut down.

  20. They get away with this because unfortunately the vast majority of the population don’t even understand the NBN, NBN Co nor the personnel that make up its executive. The government knows that the main stream media (being pro-lib and having a vested interested in the CBN) won’t report on it. Only a tiny niche tech audience read this sort of stuff. Unfortunately we don’t really have the numbers nor status to influence.

    TL;DR – General public SHOULD but DOESN’T care, and their ignorance allows this sort of stuff to happen.

  21. Just wondering, if these new NBN execs are just positioning it for the T$, Foxtel, SNews take over or take advantage. Wouldn’t that be a breach of their fiduciary duties under Australian company director law?

    Given that the NBN is meant to be a stand alone profitable wholesaler?

  22. Surprise!

    .. not surprised. Amused at how easy it has become, really. And ever so slightly saddened.

  23. Australia needs the equivalent of a soccer sporting director who’s main role is to mandate the culture, philosophy and direction of the sporting club (see Bayern Munich FC, Barcelona FC etc). with soccer managers coming and going but always required to adhere to the culture, philosophy and direction with the aim of bringing success to the club with responsibility for tactics and the purchase of players.

    I can see roles above politics in areas like Science, Communications, Infrastructure, Health and Schooling.

    It’s just a dream but it needs to happen to prevent the wasted years, flip flopping and uncertainty in leading a country to greatness.

  24. CBN – News conference in Foxtel Studio
    NBN – Bias media in News corp
    CBN – Ziggy back for Telstra 2.0
    CBN – Ex News corp person appoint to the role

    Next prediction:
    NBN/CBN will be sold off to foxtel

    Foxtel has quietly been building its own fibre network :)

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