Turnbull reiterates need for NBN Co transparency

Coalition says NBN Co annual report "does not necessarily provide a meaningful indicator of progress."

The Coalition government has refuted parts of an NBN Co annual report tabled in Parliament today.

“Plainly there is substantial room to improve the quality and transparency of NBN Co’s reporting,” wrote communications minister Malcolm Turnbull and finance minister Mathias Cormann in a letter addressed to new NBN Co Chairman Ziggy Switkowski. The letter was tabled alongside the report.

The Coalition members stressed that 2012-13 NBN Co report was endorsed by former NBN Co Chairman Siobhan McKenna and sent to Parliament on 27 August, before the federal election.

“It therefore necessarily reflects NBN Co’s implementation of the broadband policies of the previous government.”

Not all metrics about operational and financial performance in the report meet the Coalition government’s standards, they said.

“In several cases this information is expressed in a form, or measures a concept, specific to the previous Government’s policies. However, in the view of the current Government, this does not necessarily provide a meaningful indicator of progress.”

Specifically, the Coalition members questioned the NBN Co’s report’s claim that—as of 7 September—there were 1.1 million brownfields premises where “construction has commenced or been completed.”

“A casual observer might assume this figure just includes premises able to connect to the NBN plus those where physical construction is underway,” Turnbull and Cormann wrote. “In fact ‘construction commenced’ also includes premises where high-level design work has been performed but actual physical build work with those designs has yet to commence.”

They also questioned an NBN Co stat that it had passed 163,515 fibre brownsfields premises in 2013. Turnbull and Cormann said the figure should have been adjusted downward for premises passed that are unable to obtain service, including multi-dwelling units.

“We understand that as at 30 September 2013 there were 73,500 premises in the brownfields fibre footprint classified this way.”

The government has commissioned a 60-day review of NBN Co, which will include analysis of the progress and cost of the NBN rollout and NBN Co’s financial and operational status. The government plans to detail its new plan in a statement of expectations that will be released after the review is completed.

The Coalition issued an interim statement of expectations last month to provide construction and operating guidance to the NBN Co during the audit.

In letters included in the NBN Co report, McKenna and outgoing NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley appeared upbeat on deployment of the NBN.

“NBN Co made considerable progress this year towards fulfilling its central objectives of establishing a national wholesale-only, open access communications network that can foster competition in retail telecommunications and deliver high speed broadband connectivity to all Australians by 2021,” wrote McKenna.

Quigley wrote, “As a result of the actions taken by NBN Co, the company achieved its revised end-of-year forecasts for the rollout of Fibre and experienced the anticipated acceleration in the ramp-up of construction.”

“The work we have achieved, including progress made in surmounting the challenges inherent in rolling out Australia’s largest national infrastructure project, offer further confidence that the company is on track to deliver the National Broadband Network in line with the parameters of the Corporate Plan and NBN Co’s central objectives as set out in the Statement of Expectations.”

According to the 2012-13 report, NBN Co had commenced or completed construction for 1.1 million brownfields premises, 84,844 greenfields lots or premises and 304,686 fixed wireless and satellite premises.

NBN Co said it had passed 163,515 fibre brownfields premises, 44,028 fibre greenfields lots or premises and 277,256 fixed wireless and satellite premises. And the company said it had activated 20,441 fibre brownfields, 13,145 fibre greenfields and 36,514 fixed wireless or satellite.

The full report is available on the NBN Co website.

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Tags annual reportMalcolm TurnbullfibreMathias Cormannpremises passedgovernmentNBNbroadbandpolitics

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