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Ziggy Switkowski to face challenges leading the NBN in Australia: academic

Stephanie McDonald | Sept. 30, 2013
Former Telstra boss may have trouble mobiliising a demoralised workforce, says Mark Gregory

A Telstra advantage?
Changing the National Broadband Network (NBN) to a fibre-to-the-node network will have significant implications for Telstra's copper network, requiring new negotiations between the telco and the federal government over a key $11 billion agreement between the two. This includes agreements around who will own and maintain the copper network.

While Switkowski led Telstra for more than five years, Gregory says Switkowski's history with the telco is unlikely to give him much of an advantage in helping to renegotiate a new agreement.

He says while his knowledge of internal workings at Telstra could be of some benefit, too much time has passed since he was involved with the telco.

"Whether or not that will be any advantage really will be outweighed by how the current management at Telstra wants to pursue the possible contracts and the possible renegotiation," Gregory says.

The politics of the NBN
The NBN has been a politically-charged project, with outgoing CEO Mike Quigley often coming under fire during parliamentary hearings about the project. Just last week, Turnbull confirmed he asked NBN Co board members to resign.

Cranswick says Switkowski will be adept at handling this politicised aspect of the infrastructure project.

"He's been a CEO of a major telco, he knows about how to deal with politicians and he knows how to deal with shareholders," he says.

"His tenure at Telstra was fairly good in terms of the relationship with the government at that time. I'm going to assume he has the confidence of not only of the minister but also of other members of ... the Coalition government."

Cranswick says the influence Switkowski will have on the NBN will ultimately depend on how the scope of the project changes from the Labor plan, with the Coalition announcing an NBN audit that will last 60 days, commencing after a new NBN Co board is chosen.

Cranswick said any project changes will determine whether Switkowski is just steering the project or actually driving it.

"It depends how NBN Co is transformed over the next six to 12 months and then we'll have a clearer sense of what he can do and what the potential is or if he is restricted from other forces that are impinged on him," he says.


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