news NBN chair Ziggy Switkowski has made an extraordinary intervention into the Federal Election campaign, defending the NBN company’s record under the Coalition and claiming insiders who have leaked senstive information of being politically motivated thieves and not whistleblowers.
A week and a half ago, AFP officers raided the Melbourne office of former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, and the house of at least one Labor staffer working for Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare, in an apparent attempt to ascertain the identity of whistleblowers who have leaked a series of key documents from within the NBN company.
Over the past six months, Delimiter and a number of other media outlets have published a wide range of sensitive documents from within the NBN company.
The documents appear to provide hard evidence that the NBN company has suffered a range of problems with the Coalition’s controversial Multi-Technology Mix version of the NBN, ranging from cost blow-outs in Telstra’s copper network, to problems with Optus’ HFC cable network, to delays in getting the Fibre to the Node technology connected and more.
In many cases, the leaks have revealed information which the NBN company itself has been reluctant to disclose.
However, in an extraordinary article published in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday morning, Ziggy Switkowski — appointed as chair of the NBN by then-Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull — attempted to defend the NBN company.
Switkowski said that the leaks were “not” the action of whistleblowers, pointing out that the NBN company had an established internal whistleblowing process which had not been followed by the leakers.
“When dozens of confidential company documents are stolen, this is theft,” wrote Switkowski. “When they are the basis of media headlines and partisan attacks, they wrongly tarnish our reputation, demoralise our workforce, distract the executive, and raise doubts where there is little basis for concern.”
“The process is a form of political rumourtrage – the circulation of misinformation to diminish an enterprise for political gain.”
Switkowski also attempted to defend the NBN company’s record under his tenure, stating that its rollout was on track, and that its revenues would exceed plans.
“Contrary to media commentary, the documents did nothing to highlight poor management of the business,” wrote Switkowski.
“There are no “cost blowouts” or “rollout delays” to the publicly released plans – all one has to do is compare the data that is readily available. The documents show progress updates, options to ensure targets are met and ways to solve problems which are all normal parts of doing good business. It’s simply wrong to diminish NBN’s performance, because such accusations are not supported in fact.”
Switkowski said the NBN company was “duty bound” to refer the leaking issue to the Australian Federal Police.
The NBN company has stood down two employees as a result of the AFP’s leaks investigation, although it is not clear whether the pair or anyone else has been charged yet.
“We make no apologies for acting in the best interests of the company, its shareholders, and ultimately the Australian taxpayers,” wrote Switkowski.
Image credit: NBN company