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Proposed NSW NBN coordinator revives Kaiser memories

Proposed NSW NBN coordinator revives Kaiser memories

Middle man could coerce state agencies to give up their assets for NBN use

A proposed whole-of-government middle man between NSW Government departments and NBN Co could earn a six-figure annual salary under a five-year contract.

The coordinator will be established under the National Broadband Network Co-ordinator Bill 2010 put forward by the NSW Minister for Commerce, Paul Lynch, this week and will be charged with negotiating between network wholesaler NBN Co and government departments for the use of existing state infrastructure including power poles, microwave towers as well as road, rail and river bridges.

Lynch said the bill would be reviewed in five years, and repealed once the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout was completed.

However, the minister was unable to confirm attacks from the opposition over whether the proposed role would earn a six-figure salary.

“If the position were to be occupied by an alternative person on a full-time basis, the usual public sector employment process would be associated with establishing new positions and appropriate pay scales would be followed,” he said.

The debate led some Liberal MPs to compare the position with that of Mike Kaiser, who was named government relations officer for NBN Co last year following a brief and questionable employment process. Kaiser is known to earn a $450,000 salary.

A spokesperson for Lynch told Computerworld Autralia the coordinator position may be assigned as additional responsibilities to an existing public servant, in which case they would not be paid further.

The bill, currently under debate in NSW Parliament, would also provide Lynch with the ability to coerce departments into allowing the use of the infrastructure if there is a dispute. Though NBN Co has already negotiated the use of some state-owned assets from utilities Country Energy and Integral Energy during the construction of mainland trial sites, the new ministerial powers would align with Lynch’s recent push for a more aggressive approach to negotiations with state departments.

“From the beginning, NBN Co foreshadowed its need to access assets with the potential to facilitate the rollout,” he told Parliament this week. “It is imperative to ensure similar agreements between New South Wales Government asset owners and NBN Co are expedited as smoothly and successfully as those agreements just concluded over the first release sites.”

The coordinator will liaise directly with a chief executives committee, which will comprise the Directors-General of five state agencies, including the Department of Services, Technology and Administration; Department of Premier and Cabinet; Department of Industry; Transport NSW; and the Secretary of the NSW Treasury.

However, the opposition questioned the relevance of state legislation to the Federal Government’s project.

“What requirements will be placed on State governments under the business plan with respect to the National Broadband Network,” Liberal MP Andrew Constance questioned in Parliament.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAu

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