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Syntheo not off the hook after playing hooky

Stephanie McDonald | April 22, 2013
The Joint Commitee on the National Broadband Network (NBN) is likely to ask Syntheo to front up to another hearing after the construction company failed to appear before the committee on Friday, said independent MP Rob Oakeshott.

The Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network (NBN) is likely to ask Syntheo to front up to another hearing after the construction company failed to appear before the committee on Friday, said independent MP Rob Oakeshott.

Syntheo, a joint venture with Lend Lease and Service Stream, was due to face questioning about its role in a recent three-month delay to the NBN.

Dale Connor, COO of construction and infrastructure at Lend Lease, appeared to show "support" for Syntheo, but did not answer questions regarding the Syntheo's role in the NBN's delays.

"Unfortunately I can't speak on behalf of Syntheo with respect to any specific problems apart from what's been publicly put forward," he said.

Oakeshott told Computerworld Australia that the committee had invited Syntheo to appear at a hearing for "some time" and in the past 48 hours it indicated it would show up.

"Obviously something has happened in those 48 hours to change arrangements. I don't have the details as to what's led to where we've ended and some pretty skinny evidence provided by the individuals involved," he said.

"I think the committee will meet and deliberate because I think issues of construction are very real risks for the overall build and area where the committee does need to do further work."

Oakeshott indicated the committee would be likely to ask the company to appear again.

Syntheo has around $835 million worth of contracts to build the NBN in Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Mike Quigley, CEO of NBN Co, told a parliamentary hearing in February this year that Syntheo had not connected any fibre serving area modules in WA or the NT, despite starting construction on the NBN in some areas more than 19 months ago.

Syntheo's construction of the NBN in the NT has now been handed back to NBN Co.

A FTTN corporate plan?

With the Coalition releasing its broadband policy last week, NBN Co was on Friday questioned by the committee on whether it could develop an alternate corporate plan based on fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) technology.

Quigley told the committee that it was not NBN Co's role to develop corporate plans for alternative technology solutions.

"[NBN Co] is an entity that executes government policy. We don't make policy -- we execute on it," he said.

Quigley said developing a FTTN corporate plan would need to be based on several assumptions, such as who would pay for the remediation costs of copper.

"There's half a dozen very meaty issues that would need to be resolved before we could analyse that in any detail," he said.

However, NBN Co told the hearing that it has looked into alternative architectures for delivering the NBN to multi-dwelling units (MDUs), which has been problematic for NBN Co.

 

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