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NBN Co's Quigley questions government oversight methods

NBN Co's Quigley questions government oversight methods

Not a department - just a private company in government hands - claims the wholesaler's chief

NBN Co chief executive, Mike Quigley, has questioned the effectiveness of some methods used by the government to scrutinise the company and the National Broadband Network (NBN), arguing it could potential impede on the network wholesaler’s efficiency.

In particular, Quigley used a speech delivered to the Melbourne Press Club this week to question the use of Senate estimates hearings as a means of discussing some of the project’s issues.

“My experience suggests that that Estimates is not the best avenue for explaining often complex and difficult technical issues and their interplay with policy,” Quigley said.

Quigley said the process of questions on notice was a “fortunate” one, as it provided the company and the overseeing Department of Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy the ability to formulate more extensive answers to some of the questions put forward by senator.

However, he argued the volume of questions put on notice during recent hearings exemplified the futility of estimates for NBN Co purposes. During the most recent estimates hearing, NBN Co was forced to put 202 questions on notice, compared to five for the Australia Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), 27 for Australia Post and 43 for the ABC.

“It’s proper that this nation-building project is subjected to tough questions and a very vigorous debate,” he said. “But at the same time we must get on with the serious job of building a network.”

He insisted that, despite intentions from some in government, NBN Co was ultimately a government business enterprise comprised or private sector personnel and not a traditional government department.

The Federal Government does intend to privatise NBN Co once the network is completed, though the Greens have long pushed for amendments to legislation that would ensure NBN Co remains a public entity.

Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam, last year told <i>Computerworld Australia</i> that privatising the wholesaler would remove any oversight the government currently has.

"We lose those mechanisms the day they privatise it," Ludlam said at the time.

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