Monday, November 18, 2013

Turnbull warns of "daunting challenge" in getting NBN back on track

The Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has warned it will be a "daunting challenge" to get the National Broadband Network back on track.

Mr Turnbull was speaking at a conference in Sydney to update the telecommunications industry on whether the NBN would be delivered on time and on budget.

Listen to my analysis from The World Today.

The NBN Company is currently in the middle of a 60 day review ordered shortly after the Coalition was elected.

But the outcome is becoming a headache not just for Mr Turnbull but the entire telecommunications industry which is looking for certainty after the instability of the Labor years.

When the review ends on December 31, industry stakeholders will want a clear answer on whether the NBN will be delivered in a fashion that works not just for the Coalition but for them.

While Labor's fibre to the home version was costed at $44 billion, the Coalition's fibre to the street corner using Telstra's copper wire to home is more modest at around $29 billion.

But anything is possible given Mr Turnbull's comments earlier this year that all options will be assessed during the review.

Mr Turnbull made the point this morning that the Labor government had no business in undertaking such a massive financial project with underwriting from the private sector.

Political issues to one side, Mr Turnbull is now warning of "bumps in the road" in the rollout of "a colossal undertaking" which is now "a daunting challenge".

It's easy to get the impression that Mr Turnbull is carefully managing expectations about how and when the NBN will eventually be rolled out.

"Make no mistake. To get this project back on track and completed in a reasonable time frame at a reasonable cost is a daunting challenge," Mr Turnbull said.

Participants at "The NBN Rebooted" conference hosted by the Communications Alliance would have been disappointed at the "no show" of NBN executive chairman Ziggy Switkowski who was billed earlier as keynote speaker.

However a spokesman for Mr Turnbull said Dr Switskowski had never accepted the invitation to speak and that his listing on the conference agenda was mischievous.

It's understood the Dr Switskowski - in the past accessible to journalists including this reporter - has agreed to keep a low profile in line with the communications strategy of the Coalition.

And on the theme of public commentary in relation to the NBN (which was almost daily during the Rudd/Gillard governments) Mr Turnbull said he had ordered the NBN Company and anyone related to the project to "tell it as it is".

"There is no longer any room at the NBN Co for spin or for telling the minister what people imagine he wants to hear," Mr Turnbull said.

"In short, I expect the team, management, the board at the NBN Co to regard every forecast and every decision as something they would be prepared to defend in the prospectus for a public listed company."

In ordering the elimination of "spin" in NBN communications, Mr Turnbull is raising the bar for all government projects.


  1. The NBN rollout is already underway in Tasmania and I am in the process of lodging a complaint as to their business practices. We live in regional Australia and require a wireless connection. Since the election we have had five broken appointments where we were required to be at home on workdays. We have to communicate through Telstra as a third party because NBN is arm's length from its customers. This results in a ridiculous process of ignorance and delays. NBN will connect a house across the road and then proceed to another area. There is no professional route management. Excuses even extended to asbestos when our case was for an aerial. It would seem the silent incoming government is as incompetent as NBN management. Just butt out and do the job.

  2. Hi,

    I'm a little confused.

    The article above states, "The NBN Company is currently in the middle of a 60 day review ordered shortly after the Coalition was elected."

    On Malcolm Turnbull's website the article dated 12th September 2013 states, "We will bring the public into our confidence. We will open the books of the NBN. There will be a strategic review conducted within the next 60 days which will show how long it will take and how much it will cost to complete the NBN on the current specifications and what that means both to the taxpayer and to the consumers."
    Link -

    60 days from the 12th of September is the 11th of November. Shouldn't the review have been completed already? They shouldn't be in the middle of the review as your comment stated.


  3. Hi Matt. Thanks for your feedback and I take your point. To clarify, Malcolm Turnbull's office tells me the report on the NBN review is scheduled to come back on 2 December after which it will be released for all of us to absorb. Best wishes Peter


What's your view on this?