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'I shot the sheriff': Turnbull asked for NBN Co board scalps

Promises 'NBN weekly progress report'

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New communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has told a Sydney press conference that the government specifically requested the resignation of the NBN Co board, “to give the government complete flexibility in remaking the board in light of the policy agenda.”

Turnbull said that “I have never criticised any of the individuals on that board,” claiming rather that the selection of the board requires the right experience in telecommunications, management and construction, along with “getting the right mix and getting the right chemistry.”

Turnbull told the press conference that the replacement board will be chosen by cabinet. The first task of that board – apart from maintaining a steady hand on whatever construction is already subject to contract – will be to set in train the strategic review promised by the minister and Tony Abbott back in April.

Minister Turnbull said the strategic review will not be constrained to any particular technology, but rather will be designed to deliver “the best result for taxpayers as soon as possible”.

The scope of the strategic review will be to look at how long and how much it would cost “to complete the project on the current specifications … and to assess what scope there is to reduce that cost and time,” Turnbull said.

That review, Turnbull stated during the press conference, will include “a cost-benefit analysis”.

Where construction has already commenced, Turnbull said it will continue. He said the interim statement of expectations issued by the government to the company requires NBN Co to continue to roll out the network “as rapidly and cost effectively as possible” during the strategic review.

While new build or remediation work should be halted for now, Turnbull believes existing satellite, wireless, transit and greenfield fibre construction should keep network construction personnel employed into 2014. Wireless work should take into account the likelihood that VDSL rollouts will make more small service areas viable for fixed service, he said.

NBN Co's board will be plenty busy, with Turnbull demanding a weekly progress report be provided. Just as soon the new board is appointed. ®

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