NBN:Described As “A Donkey, Monkey, Sinkhole + A Political Noose For Potential Board Members
Business Spectator owner and ABC TV finance commentator Alan Kohler yesterday suggested Switkowski would be mad to accept the appointment, given growing concerns that the Government intends to open up the NBN to competition – with David Teoh’s TPG already announcing a plan to cherry-pick city office fibre offerings to 500,000 premises (CDN, Sep. 18).
If Switkowski take the chairman’s job, he is likely to find he’s in charge of an unprofitable NBN which has become ” a donkey, a money sinkhole, a political noose and an end-of-career nightmare for a mild-mannered nuclear physicist who might end up wishing he’d stayed at the opera,” wrote Kohler.
He added: “If David Teoh is allowed to have the apartment buildings in the cities, then the Malcolm Turnbull/Ziggy Switkowski NBN will simply be an unprofitable competitor on price in the cities and an unprofitable, supplier of fibre-to-the-node services to rural Australia.”
Meanwhile it seems certain that current chairperson Siobhan McKenna – who Turnbull has made it clear he believes is not suited to the task – will certainly go, and so will current CEO/director Mike Quigley, who has already signalled his resignation from the chief executive post.
But observers yesterday were tipping that several others could be reappointed. According to an ABC report, they include Kerry Schott, who has had experience running utilities as the former CEO of Sydney Water, and Alison Lansley, a former mergers and acquisitions partner at law firm Mallesons Stephen Jacques.
Independent commentator Paul Budde yesterday also expressed concern about the proposed new competitive nature of the NBN under the Abbott Government, and had some thoughts on Switkowski’s future.
He suggested that instead of an immediate appointment as NBN chairman, Switkowski might be more wisely named to conduct the Government’s planned 100-day review of the NBN. This would make “admirable sense”, he told CDN. “You really need a person like him to ensure the review is truly independent, rather than just giving it to someone like [a noted business consulting firm] and getting the result you want.”
At the end of the 100 days, Switkowski might then be in the running for the chairman’s job. That would be a “nicer, more efficient and ultimately more effective system,” said Budde.
– Like Kohler, Budde is deeply troubled by the prospect of ISPs like TPG being allowed to cherry-pick the national networking game.
“The competitive HFC cable rollout by Optus and Telstra in the 1990s is an example of how that’s not the way to go forward. You had two competitors rolling out identical networks, a very limited take-up, and $3-4 billion ultimately written off,” he said. – David Frith