Australian tax payers are to be hit with staff expenses of $3.36 million for a taskforce that supported the expert panel during its evaluation of tender bids in the now abandoned national broadband network (NBN) process.
Seven expert panel members tasked with evaluating bids in the tender process conducted 42 meetings, with all but two – who are public servants – receiving $375 an hour (capped at eight hours a day). The panel also incurred travel expenses of $89,946 over a 10-month period from March, 2008.
The figures were provided by the Department for Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy in response to questions submitted by Shadow Communications Minister, Nick Minchin.
The panel met 12 times face-to-face – nine in Canberra, two in Melbourne, and one in Sydney – but also used teleconferencing a total of 24 times. The remaining six meetings were for proposal demonstrations and site visits – one of these site visits involving four panel members going to Tasmania on January 12.
Minchin has threatened to block the Government’s NBN legislation if Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, doesn’t table the expert panel’s findings. Conroy responded by refusing to acquiesce to the ultimatum.
The revelations come on the back of the budget, where the Federal Government plugged the NBN as one of its centrepiece infrastructure initiatives, allocating $4.7 billion to the project.
Analyst firm, Frost & Sullivan, also recently claimed wireless broadband could prove a formidable opponent for the NBN, but industry analysts disagreed.
The expert panel:
- University of Melbourne laureate professor, Rod Tucker
- Allphones chairman, Tony Mitchell
- Lazard Carnegie Wylie CEO, John Wylie
- Coutts Communications, Reg Coutts
- Tony Shaw (former ACA chairman)
- Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy secretary, Patricia Scott
- Treasury secretary, Dr Ken Henry