Turnbull backs NBN chairman Ziggy Switkowski

Decision to pen NBN op-ed was Switkowski’s to make, Turnbull says

NBN chairman Ziggy Switkowski.

NBN chairman Ziggy Switkowski.

NBN’s chairman, Ziggy Switkowski, has done a “remarkable job,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said today. Under Switkowski and CEO Bill Morrow, NBN has undergone a “phenomenal turnaround,” the prime minister claimed during a doorstop interview.

Turnbull’s support for the NBN chairman comes a day after revelations that NBN ignored advice that an opinion piece penned by Switkowski was a breach of the caretaker conventions that guide the public service during an election period.

The article by Switkowski defended NBN referring the leaking of internal documents to the Australian Federal Police for investigation. The AFP investigation led to dramatic raids on Labor staffers.

The leaked documents, circulated to press outlets, were used to attack the NBN rollout.

Labor MP Tony Burke, the manager of opposition business, in May asked the head of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Martin Parkinson, whether the article was in breach of the caretaker conventions.

In a letter to Burke, Parkinson wrote that “some of the comments in the opinion piece are not consistent with established practices around the Caretaker Conventions, which are directed at protecting the apolitical nature of government bodies and preventing controversies about the role of those bodies distracting attention from the substantive issues in the election campaign”.

Parkinson revealed that NBN had provided an advance draft of the article to the Department of the Communications and the Arts, which in turn “sought, and received, advice from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet that the publication of the article in that form was not consistent with the established practices associated with the Caretaker Conventions”.

“The caretaker convention, compliance with it, if you like, is a matter to be determined by, as Martin Parkinson observed, by the head of the relevant agency,” Turnbull said today. “In this case that is NBN Co and that is Ziggy Switkowski. He explained why he made the statement he did, why he felt it was operationally necessary and I respect his decision to do so.”

NBN “was being accused in the public domain of very serious misconduct, which was undermining the morale of 5000 people working for it and ... he had to set the facts straight and he has done that,” Turnbull said.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said yesterday that NBN was “doing everything they can to cover up for Malcolm Turnbull's incompetence and their own misadministration”. He said Switkowski’s article was a “shameful breach of the caretaker convention”.

“Yet again NBN Co are doubling down on the cover-up, on the denial,” Shorten said.

Asked if the NBN chairman should be sacked, Shorten said that was an issue for Turnbull.

On one hand if he doesn't sack Dr Switkowski or take action, he’s condoning a breach of caretaker conventions. Of course if he does, it confirms the game is up in terms of how NBN Co has been going in the last three years.”

A statement issued yesterday by NBN said:

The Caretaker Guidelines state that: “[government companies] …should observe the conventions and practices unless to do so would conflict with their legal obligations or compelling organisational requirements”.

Any accusation that the company’s staff, management, its board and (by implication) its shareholder departments have conspired to keep large cost increases secret from the Australian people is not only plainly and demonstrably false, but is a serious accusation in light of the Corporations Act (for example section 184).

This is obviously not acceptable and the opinion piece addressed the allegations in a manner commensurate with the mode in which they were made; that is, publicly in the national media.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags ziggy switkowskiNational Broadband Network (NBN)nbn conational broadband network

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Rohan Pearce

Rohan Pearce

Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?