Senate Committee calls NBN Co for full day of hearings


news The Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network has resolved to hold another full day of hearings in Canberra, with the date to be 15 March and the only witness to be called being the NBN company.

The Committee was established in November 2013 in order to provide a mechanism for the Parliament to keep the NBN project accountable. At the time, Labor teamed up with the Greens to establish the Committee, using the pair’s combined dominance of the Senate which ended in July 2014. The Committee features a mix of Coalition and Labor Senators, with Greens Senator Scott Ludlam holding the balance of power.

At times, the Committee’s hearings and reports been seen as broadly partisan towards Labor’s view of the National Broadband Network due to the presence on the Committee of former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, who continues to be a strong critic of the Coalition’s approach to the NBN.

Conroy has at times taken an adversarial approach to questioning the NBN company at hearings held by the Committee, mimicking his approach during similar NBN hearings held by the Senate Environment and Communications Committee during the Senate Estimates process.

In addition, the NBN Committee has only rarely called witnesses that were not from the NBN company itself.

The Committee has somewhat addressed this criticism through calling a day of hearings this Friday 4 March. At the hearings, it will hear from a panel of academics including established NBN commentators such as University of Melbourne Professor Rod Tucker, the University of WA’s David Glance, and RMIT University’s Mark Gregory.

It will also hear from executives from Chorus New Zealand via videoconference, as well as Professor Len gray from the Centre for Online Health at the University of Queensland, and executives from the Stan and Presto (Foxtel) online streaming services.

However, it appears that Senator Conroy has also gotten his way with the Committee in seeking additional hearings directly questioning the NBN company.

Conroy flagged in the last round of Senate Estimates hearings in early February that it was likely the NBN company would be called to hearings of the NBN Senate Select Committee shortly, and over the past several days the Committee has confirmed on its website that it would call the NBN company for a full day of hearings (9:30AM to 5PM) on Tuesday 15 March in Parliament House in Canberra.

The date is also a Sitting Day for the Senate, meaning the hearings may be broken up regularly as Senators are called into the Senate Chamber for votes.

One of the topics likely to be discussed at the hearings, which has arisen since the last Senate Estimates hearings, is a set of leaked documents published by Delimiter and other media outlets this week, which appears to show that the NBN company is not anywhere close to meeting its Fibre to the Node rollout targets.

You can view the full program for the March 4 hearings here (PDF) and the full program for the March 15 hearings here (PDF).

Since the last set of hearings by the Committee, the leadership of the Committee has changed, with Labor Senator Jan McLucas now chairing and deputy chair to be Liberal Senator David Johnston. The former chair of the committee, Labor Senator Jenny McAllister, has shifted to chair the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Publication Administration (References).

Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting


  1. And in other news, there’s been a record number of hangover sick days being taken off after NBN senate hearings.

  2. Place the drinking game you have to take a drink every time commercial in confidence is said

          • I’d agree, however i’d suggest that their strong opinion was formed by a scientific analysis of the the facts.

          • Can’t handle the facts? Gregory may have opinions, but they are based on hard evidence, ie facts..!

          • I reckon the Foxtel mob will fight just as hard for MTM seeing as it give them a free ride and all. So probably balances out those two.

          • I’m suggesting they have a strong opinion on the merits of FTTP

            Damn those expert scientists, what would they know? :o)

        • I think the correct terms are “FTTP Fanbois” or “FTTP squealers” according to our resident LibKingTroll Richard.

        • The LNP has literally 2 so called Telco “Analysts” in it’s corner, Grahame Lynch and Kevin Morgan, both of whom are not exactly well respected by the bulk of the Telco industry.

        • Notice how all the experts called to the meeting have things like degrees and doctorates in relevant areas? Check out the backgrounds of the Coalition’s “experts”.

        • Indeed…

          Common sense dictates that whoever they get may have a political leaning (even only minimally) and/or a topology leaning… there’s no escaping this as the NBN has been going on for years and is very political.

          Being so, IMO if Mark Gregory let’s purely hypothetically of course, say, parts owns a couta boat with Billy or Rod Tucker is a serial donator to the Labor party who does pro-bono work for them, then I’d suggest their input is tainted.


    • While not a waste of a day overall, I’d tend to agree that Tucker and Gregory aren’t going to add much. We’re all very well aware of their positions.

      • I think they are more than likely going to be able to present additional detail over and above their public statements/articles, imo this is a good thing.

        • Possibly, but they’re very known quantities in their viewpoints, and fairly adversarial to NBN. It’s an easily dismissed opinion at this stage in the political arena

          The rest of the day though will be an interesting experience.

      • I’d tend to agree that Tucker and Gregory aren’t going to add much.

        Neither does Morrow, but that doesn’t stop them getting him back in…

      • Why tho. Yes we know where they stand. But the important element is that they are experts in the field, they will be able to take technical questions, and give direct technical answers. As opposed to a financial person who dabbles in Technology.

        The reality is that they stand where they stand because of the Technology, not simply because of Political Bias.

        • @w dozens of their claims called out after every post. Gregory over at bizspec displays a remarkable ignorance of networking (even basics like layer 2). Check out his latest article re copper remediation.

          Tucker behind the 2-3 new powers stations required for FTTN. I hope he’s asked where they’re being constructed.

          Neither have displayed much industry knowledge (those that can’t do teach).

          You can write their error filled contributions today (govt should expand even further in telcoms with fibre everywhere). Ufortunately there wont be anyone technical literate on the committee to point out the many errors (labor/greens will cheer, coalition boo). All very predictable.

          • The only person displaying ignorance here is you Richard.

            Professor Tucker and Mark Gregory are well respected in the industry, unlike those Liberal shrills and Malcolm’s cronies.

          • @FibreZealot

            It’s Richards modus operandi FZ, if they (Gregory, Tucker and Budde for example) don’t agree with him, they are technical illiterates.

    • ** Warning this Senate hearing will have intelligent people speaking, please cover your ears if this offends you **

    • Richard, if not Tucker and Gregory, who do you think the senate should hear from?

      • @jc representatives of some of the many telcos that have already completed an upgrade would be a great start. Yes include FTTH to get some insight to the economic transition (if any) and how costs were mitigated.

        Literally dozens to choose from.

        • People like Bell Canada eh?…ftth…/2015-11-06

          I’ll leave you to ignore the take outs ;)
          “FTTH technology also provides a clear path to — significantly to support other speeds beyond one gig over time,” Cope said during the earnings call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. “And by way of example … by 2017 we’d have the ability to do 10 gig speeds.”

          Cope added that it could achieve the 10G speeds “without requiring any upgrade to our network” and unlike its cable competitors “any segmentation capital.”


          “”Yes, it’s capital intensive, but in the operating side we’re seeing a requirement for about 40% less truck rolls in fiber-to-the-home areas versus FTTN areas, a 50% reduction in preventative maintenance and most importantly our churn rate is lower in markets that we have FTTH over anything else we provide and that’s simply because there is no technology better in the world than that technology,” Cope said.”

          • People like Dennis Steiger who seems to go AWOL every senate hearing. Maybe they should call in Turnbull himself the “wireless will threaten the NBN” man.

          • @np right. Those savings have already been quantified by a few of us here. Direct opex FTTN $100 vs FTTP $50 / yr. unfortunately the capex differential is thousands.

            The next question would be his view of rolling out FTTH to 93% of Canadians.

          • @Richard

            The capex that would have been raised as debt to the company and would have been paid back by them, and not by the taxpayer? That capex?

            The butthurt way you act sometimes, it seems like you personally would have been paying it off…

          • “Direct opex FTTN $100 vs FTTP $50 / yr.”

            I’m thinking that your “quantifying process” leaves a huge amount to be desired.

      • “Literally dozens to choose from.” says the self proclaimed expert of err, everything and more.

        Yet not one name, is actually spat out?

        How telling…

    • Tucker and Gregory? Classic. What a waste of a day.

      Yes, how dare they bring facts into this!!


    • Yes damn those with foresight like Tucker and Gregory, we want those with hindsight only..

      Those who can tell us “after the fact, with their wonderful hindsight”, exactly why it was wise to have replaced the iron wires with copper in the past, whilst screaming copper is going to good enough for the future…

      The irony (no pun intended) of such people eh Richard…?

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