Keeping NBN Co under Government ownership will ensure the company stays accountable to the public, according to Australian Greens communications spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam.
NBN Co is responsible for the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN).
At the Australian Communications and Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) Our Broadband Future conference in Sydney, Ludlam talked about his take on how the NBN has progressed so far.
He lauded the Federal Government’s efforts in structurally separating Telstra since it was a step forward in killing the vertically integrated monopoly that was created when the telco was privatised in 1997.
“That move divorced the interest of shareholders and the public interest – not completely but enough to really matter,” Ludlam said.
While the Coalition has been concerned about the Government backflipping on its commitment to privatise NBN Co in due course, the Greens’ stance on the matter is to keep the company in public hands.
From the Coalition’s perspective, being 100 per cent Government-owned protects NBN Co from financial accountability. Listed private companies have a responsibility to provide rigorous financial reporting to shareholders.
“[NBN Co chief] Mike Quigley has two shareholders: the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Communications representing the public interest,” Ludlam said. “So in theory, at least, the incentives are aligned; [Quigley’s] job is to serve the public interest, to get as many people on the network and as much traffic as possible which keeps his shareholders happy.
NBN Co does not have to make a commercial turnover but it will have to earn enough to pay back the $36 billion taxpayer-funded network, he said.
Keeping NBN Co under the control of the Government is a key part of making the company accountable to the public, according to the Greens.
“I know it drives him bonkers, but we get Mr Quigley in front of budget estimate committees, in front of Joint Committee hearings... [he] has to answer questions in a way directors of Telstra or other private providers don’t have to,” Ludlam said. “I think that’s a really important piece of the puzzle from a user and public interest perspective.”
The ACCAN Our Broadband Future conference continues.
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