news Bill Shorten this afternoon accused the NBN company of engaging in a conspiracy to “cover up” Malcolm Turnbull’s “incompetence” and its own “maladministration” of the NBN project, following news that NBN chair Ziggy Switkowski deliberately took a politically partisan position during the election campaign.
This morning it was revealed that Switkowski had willfully and deliberately breached the Caretaker Conventions which ensure the political independence of the public service and government companies such as the NBN company during an election campaign.
A letter from Martin Parkinson (PDF), the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, to Shadow Finance Minister Tony Burke, confirmed Switkowski had breached the Caretaker Conventions several weeks ago with an article defending the NBN company’s actions in targeting whistleblowers.
Parkinson’s letter revealed Switkowski had been “strongly” advised the article would breach the Caretaker Conventions, but ignored the advice and went ahead anyway.
Delimiter has invited the NBN company and the Office of Communications Minister Mitch Fifield to comment on the matter.
Speaking in Perth this afternoon, the Opposition Leader said the NBN company was doing “everything they can to cover up for Malcolm Turnbull’s incompetence and their own maladministration”.
Shorten said Switkowski was an “otherwise respectable businessman”, but that he had perpetrated a “shameful breach of the Caretaker Conventions”.
“Yet again, NBN Co are doubling down on the cover-up, on the denial,” he said.
Shorten said if Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull refused to sack Switkowski, then he was “condoning” Switkowski’s behaviour, whereas if he did remove the NBN chair, then it confirmed “the game’s up in terms of how the NBN Co’s been going over the past three years”.
“Mr Turnbull’s caught in a bind of his own making,” said Shorten.
Ultimately the Prime Minister needed “to show some leadership in terms of what he’s going to do in terms of a flagrant brief of the Caretaker Conventions,” the Opposition Leader said.
“Or is it that anything goes?”
On Monday, the Australian Labor Party revealed its new National Broadband Network policy for this year’s Federal Election.
The policy will see Labor abandon the Coalition’s preferred Fibre to the Node technology in favour of Labor’s original Fibre to the Premises model. However, it will see Labor retain the HFC cable, satellite and fixed wireless components of the Coalition’s Multi-Technology Mix model, at least in the medium term.
Today, Shorten repeated past criticism of the NBN project as overseen by Turnbull, during his time as Communications Minister and then Prime Minister, stating that the cost of the project had doubled under Turnbull’s watch, as well as Australia’s Internet ranking having slipped from 30th to 60th globally.
“The NBN Co are doing everything they can with the Government to cover up the facts,” he said. “This is a disappointing sign of the lengths the NBN Co will go to cover up the policy.”
“What a surprise.”
Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting