NBN answers two months overdue

It’s not just our internet that’s slow: NBN Co has taken more than two months to answer questions on notice, with some asking why it’s taking so long.

Questions are being asked over why it’s taking so long for answers to queries that NBN Co took on notice from the Senate, some of which were due more than two months ago.

Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland hit out at Communications Minister Paul Fletcher on Tuesday, accusing him of wanting to “suppress” the information by passing the buck back and forth between his department and the state-owned company that delivered and maintains the national broadband network.

A total of 34 questions were taken on notice by NBN Co, including two that were supposed to have been answered more than two months ago.

“The questions put to NBN Co largely focus on financial information omitted from the 2021 Corporate Plan, and taxpayer-funded bonuses paid to staff,” Ms Rowland said in a statement.

RELATED: Suburbs to get faster internet revealed

RELATED: ‘Dark ages’: Australia’s worst internet

She added a further accusation that the corporate plan in question was “delayed by three weeks until after Minister Fletcher announced his copper backflip” and said “since the copper backflip, the Liberals and Nationals have sought to prevent the Senate and the media from scrutinising changes to NBN Co’s underlying financials”.

Mr Fletcher told news.com.au the “$4.5 billion NBN network investment plan” described by Ms Rowland as a “copper backflip” was in actuality “a continuation of the ‘multi-technology model’ that has been used to deliver this enormous project efficiently and economically”.

Most of the questions put to NBN Co should have been answered by December 21 last year, while two others were due on December 3.

“The lack of respect shown for Senate accountability is unacceptable, and Labor will not permit the Minister to treat taxpayers like fools,” Ms Rowland said.

NBN Co denied having anything to hide and said it would be answering the questions – the number of which actually greatly exceeds 34 – “in the coming days”.

RELATED: ‘Unusual’ space event that took down NBN

RELATED: 20,000 more moved to worse NBN

“We have not intentionally delayed our response to any Questions on Notice (QoNs).NBN Co has a track record of answering QoNs in a timely and efficient manner and this has been the case for many years,” an NBN spokesperson told news.com.au.

“NBN Co is currently dealing with a significant volume of questions from a Senate Estimates hearing, a subsequent Senate spill-over hearing, a Joint Standing Committing hearing, and a number of Parliamentary Questions on Notice.

“We do our best to be as transparent, diligent and as accurate as possible in our responses, and this process can take time. Many of the questions are complex, with multiple sub-questions; for example, one recent QoN involved a single question that contained 96 sub-questions, another had more than 50 sub-questions. This requires co-ordination among a variety of subject matter experts within the company as well as internal checks to ensure accuracy.”

RELATED: NBN’s 50,000km of copper a ‘waste of time and money’

The NBN spokesperson added there was “nothing unusual” about the CEO of NBN answering questions put to its chief financial officer, which Ms Rowland characterised as a “bizarre” attempt to conceal information.

“NBN Co often brings three or four senior executives to these hearings and attempts as best as possible to provide answers to detailed questions asked over a period of hours. Questions are typically answered initially by the CEO with additional information provided by the relevant executive where necessary,” the NBN spokesperson said.

Liberal Senator Jane Hume, called upon to explain the delays in the Senate on Tuesday, said the communications department has “repeatedly encouraged NBN Co to provide those responses in a timely manner” and said she would follow up with Mr Fletcher’s office.

Opposition whip Senator Anne Urquhart said it was “simply unacceptable” that the questions hadn’t been answered yet.

“This lack of responsiveness reflects very poorly on the Minister for Communications and very poorly on NBN Co. More broadly, it underscores a lack of respect for Senate accountability, which has plagued the communications portfolio throughout the parliamentary term of this Government.

“Labor calls on the Morrison Government and NBN Co to release these questions immediately and stop disrespecting the intelligence of Australian taxpayers,” Ms Urquhart said.

She further accused the Government of withholding information in NBN’s latest corporate plan “because they did not want the media or the parliament to have visibility of its latest cost blowouts”.

“It’s another smokescreen. It’s another cover-up. So, today, the Senate seeks an answer to that question. What exactly is the Morrison Government trying to hide by not answering these questions or allowing them to be answered?” Ms Urquhart asked.

Asked when the Australian public would receive answers to the questions and why they’ve taken so long to arrive, Mr Fletcher instead told news.com.au: “There is no way that we will be lectured by Ms Rowland and the Labor Party on how to deliver broadband to Australian households and businesses.”

The Minister’s office said it’s asked NBN Co to finalise responses to the questions on notice as soon as possible.

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *