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Turnbull to NBN contractors: Dance, baby, dance!

Minister wants Visionstream to work faster before he'll bargain for better pay

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Australia's communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has pulled out a pistol and started pinging bullets at the feet of national broadband network (NBN) contractor Visionstream.

The philosopher prince of the new government has popped out a blog post titled “It takes two to tango - NBN rollout in Tasmania” in which he writes “The NBN Co has advised me that it has a contract with Visionstream to run fibre past about 190,000 premises in Tasmania”.

That contract, Turnbull writes, “specifies certain rates at which Visionstream will be paid for its work.” Visionstream seems not working as fast as agreed, probably because “The NBN Co further advises me that Visionstream now complains that the rate to which it previously agreed is too low and is not enough to enable it to get the job done.”

The implication is that Visionstream's going slow because it can't make a profit on the gig.

“Visionstream has asked the NBN Co to substantially increase the rate for this work - in other words it has asked for more money to complete the project,” Turnbull writes, adding that NBN Co is chatting to Visionstream about the Ts&Cs under which it operates.

The minister's conclusion is blunt and not good news for Visionstream:

“Honouring an agreement means complying with its terms, but for a contract to be performed both sides have to be be prepared to do that.”

We take that to mean “it ain't our fault if you quoted below cost and we'll look dimly on you if you're dragging the chain in order to get a better deal, so dance, baby, dance, if you want any more lovin'.”

Visionstream's owner, Leighton Contractors, probably isn't too interested in accruing more losses.

Is Turnbull willing to see NBN construction grind to a halt? Doing so would make his promise to deliver a faster, cheaper, NBN even harder to achieve. ®

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