NBN chair's accusations of theft 'unfair'

Dr Ziggy Switkowski column slams staffers, calls leaks idealogical theft

NBN Co chairman Ziggy Switkowski

NBN Co chairman Ziggy Switkowski

Accusations of theft aimed at NBN staff in an opinion piece by NBN chairman Dr Ziggy Switkowski have sparked criticism from an internet user group and the ALP.

Laurie Patton, CEO of peak body, Internet Australia called the column “unhelpful and unfair” since the two unnamed NBN officers stood down following AFP raids had been given “no opportunity … to put forward their side of the story”.

Opposition frontbencher Tony Burke has called on secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr Martin Parkinson to “immediately undertake inquiries” into the column, which was published on Saturday.

"I am sure that you recognise the importance of ensuring that government companies are seen to be politically impartial and that Commonwealth resources are not used for the advantage of any political party,” Burke said in a letter to Parkinson. Burke claimed the article was a “clear breach of the Caretaker Conventions and the Commonwealth Government Business Enterprise Governance and Oversight Guidelines.”

In the column, published in Fairfax Media titles, Switkowski said: “When dozens of confidential company documents are stolen, this is theft.”

It goes on to dispute the “rationalisation” that the theft was the action of whistleblowers.

“If an employee has strong personal conviction unsupportive of a company's strategy, they can argue their case with management or resign. They cannot give voice to their preferred ideology by passing on stolen documents,” he wrote.

The NBN chairman’s article continues that “it's simply wrong to diminish NBN's performance, because such accusations are not supported in fact” and reiterates that NBN “makes no apologies” for reporting the “document theft” to police.

In a statement from Internet Australia, a not-for-profit peak body for internet user, Laurie Patton said: “The alleged actions of these NBN employees and questions as to their motives should be left to be dealt with according to the appropriate legal and parliamentary processes. It is unhelpful and unfair to be publicly disparaging people who, for the moment, are unable to respond.”

“Whatever their motivations, we cannot allow the actions of two individuals, yet to be tested at law, to be used to create a public distraction from the very serious flaws in NBN's current design strategy.”

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