NBN chair Dr Ziggy Switkowski has defended the government-owned company taking action against leaks of internal documents. NBN management's decision to refer the leaks to the Australian Federal Police led to raids on the homes of Labor staffers and an office of Senator Stephen Conroy.
The raids by the AFP followed a string of leaked documents that revealed challenges for NBN’s ‘multi-technology mix’ rollout, including details on copper remediation costs, the state of the Optus HFC network, and problems sourcing power for nodes.
The documents were widely circulated to journalists and used by Labor to attack the government’s handling of the NBN rollout.
In a Fairfax Media opinion piece Switkowski defended NBN referring the leaks to the AFP.
“[M]isinformation about NBN and accusations of underperformance are inexcusable and galling,” the chair of NBN’s board wrote.
“When dozens of confidential company documents are stolen, this is theft. 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.”
“While NBN has much commercially sensitive and national-interest material in its possession that must be kept confidential, the organisation accepts a very high level of commentary, and diverse and often expert opinion about our strategy and operations,” Switkowski argued.
“But information taken out of context for political gain is not in the interest of the public and is corrosive to our culture.”
Switkowski rejected claims that the documents showed rollout delays or cost blowouts.
“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,” Switkowski wrote.
Labor has accused Switkowski of breaching parliament’s caretaker conventions by writing the op-ed.
Switkowski, a former Telstra CEO, was appointed to lead NBN’s revamped board shortly after the 2013 election.