news Malcolm Turnbull’s outgoing Parliamentary Secretary Paul Fletcher has publicly praised what he described as the new Prime Minister’s “fact-based” approach to revamping Labor’s National Broadband Network project over the past two years.
Fletcher — who for the past two years has served as Parliamentary Secretary to Turnbull in his two-year role as Communications Minister — this morning published an editorial in The Australian newspaper which argued that Turnbull’s tenure as Communications Minister reinforced the new PM’s statement last week that his Government would make decisions in a thoughtful and considered manner — and that the culture of his leadership would be consultative and collaborative.
“… the first key feature of Malcolm Turnbull’s approach was to start with a careful analysis of the facts. There was detailed policy work in opposition, and once in government he commissioned the NBN strategic review — a thorough, fact-based analysis of the issues the company faced,” wrote Fletcher.
“Next, he oversaw the crafting of a robust strategy — based on the outcomes of the strategic review which found that the best way to deliver higher speeds, quickly, was a combination of fibre to the premises, fibre to the node and cable.”
Fletcher wrote that as Communications Minister, Turnbull had successfully completed ambitious deals with Telstra and Optus to use their copper and HFC cable networks as part of the NBN.
“… without this, the NBN could not have used fibre to the node because Labor had not bothered to secure the right to use Telstra’s copper in exchange for the billions that company was to receive,” the Liberal MP added.
NBN company hires made under Turnbull’s tenure also came in for praise.
“The NBN turnaround highlights another aspect of Malcolm’s leadership style: draw on smart, competent, experienced people. The NBN board had virtually no one with serious telecommunications experience on it. Turnbull moved quickly to appoint former Telstra and Optus CEO Ziggy Switkowski as chairman, as well as several others with deep industry knowledge. He secured Bill Morrow — then-CEO of Vodafone Australia, and a highly experienced global telco executive — as CEO.”
Fletcher added that another key principle of Turnbull’s tenure as Communications Minister had been “transparency and openness”.
“Within NBN Co and his department, he insisted on being told the bad news as well as the good news — replacing the politicised culture of spin which his predecessor Stephen Conroy had created. He directed NBN Co to publish its rollout numbers on its website every week — and to hold quarterly briefings in the same fashion as a listed public company.”
“But perhaps the most important lesson for the future from Turnbull’s approach as communications minister is the demonstration of his capacity to inherit a policy and evolve it into something better. Labor’s NBN strategy was deeply flawed; Malcolm reshaped it into a credible and effective strategy, and then drove a disciplined execution of the strategy. That is why the NBN today is regularly passing nearly 13,000 premises a week, and steadily building that run rate.”
“This week, Turnbull has committed to apply a set of leadership principles as Prime Minister — the same principles which have underpinned his comprehensive turnaround of Labor’s disastrous NBN.”
“Across the breadth of the Turnbull government, this rational, fact-based, collaborative approach will be key to the government’s effectiveness — and to seizing the rich opportunities available to Australia in today’s globally competitive economy.”
As part of yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle, Paul Fletcher’s role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Communications Minister has been abolished, and he will move into a different role as the new Minister for territories, local government and major projects.
I will be publishing a comprehensive deconstruction of what I can only be describe as Fletcher’s ‘fiction-based” approach to this article shortly.
Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull