What went wrong for Labor's NBN

The National Broadband Network (NBN) should have been a powerful political weapon for Labor in this year’s Federal election, the fact that it wasn’t tells us much about Australian politics and NBN Co’s flawed management.

Some of the credit for moving the NBN off the political agenda should be given to Malcolm Turnbull, who successfully dragged the Liberal Party into the Twenty-first century and offered a credible, albeit inferior, alternative to Labor’s grand project.

Despite the Coalition’s plan being inferior, Labor failed to take the political high ground due to the project’s poor execution, which featured management failings, inept communications and missed deadlines.

Most damning for the project’s management are the rollout statistics. In NBN Co’s 2010 business plan, 1.7 million premises were forecast to have been passed by the end of the 2013 financial year, instead only 484,000 were – 28 per cent of the original target.

The ‘premises passed’ statistic actually compliments NBN Co as by the end of June 2013 only 23,000 customers had been connected to the fibre network instead of the half million originally projected.

So what went wrong with the National Broadband Network – a project that delivered Labor government in 2010 and still remains popular with voters, regional Australians and business people?

Mis-selling the message

One of the most notable failures was the government and NBN Co’s inability to sell a project that had largely sold itself. As Neerav Bhatt pointed out last week in reviewing the rollout of Google Fiber, NBN Co has been spectacularly unsuccessful in engaging the community and creating a buzz around the project in the same way the search engine giant has in Kansas City.

One particularly baffling part of NBN Co’s failure to engage has been the reluctance of CEO Mike Quigley to directly talk to the community. In person, Quigley is an articulate, convincing speaker, however, he was unwilling or unable to be the public face of the project.

That reluctance of senior management to engage the general public left the task of being the project’s figurehead with communications minister Steven Conroy which had the effect of politicising the venture further.

The wrong executive team

Ultimately the problem of poor communications and missed milestones were directly due to management failings and as the first chairman and current CEO, Mike Quigley has to accept a large measure of responsibility for this.

Mike Quigley is an extremely talented, world class manager with global experience and hopefully the incoming Liberal government will find a role for him that will give Australia the continued benefit of his skills.

Unfortunately, being responsible for building the NBN was not the role he was suited for.

Quigley’s hands-off management style was the opposite of what was needed in establishing a new telecommunications company. Worse still was his lack of understanding of civil engineering and construction management, essential for a project that involves connecting millions of homes and offices around the nation.

A regular mantra from Quigley and his executive team was the broadband rollout would be a rote task ‘like flipping hamburgers’ and often parallels were drawn between the project and the submarine cable factory Alcatel Lucent built in Sydney during the 1990s.

Confusing building a factory or making hamburgers with a nationwide civil engineering project was an early indicator that Quigley’s management team had little inkling of the complexity of the task it was undertaking.

Ultimately this lack of understanding resulted in vital construction tenders being abandoned in February 2011 and NBN Co deciding to go a ‘different route’.

That different route proved to be disastrous for the project with contractors failing to deliver, chronic logistics problems and subcontractors protesting over outstanding payments.

Poor recruiting practices

Just as NBN Co struggled with managing its contractors, a similar problem affected internal recruitment, as the company’s middle management focused on candidates’ position in their industry’s mates networks rather than the suitability for the role.

This narrow thinking – a problem not exclusive to NBN Co in Australia’s corporate sector – resulted in many departments of the organisation being dominated by narrow groups of long established cronies rather than the best team to do the job.

Ultimately, a ‘dog ate my homework’ mentality infected the company as targets were repeatedly missed. An example of the company’s widespread culture of mediocrity is the updated business plan due in May 2013, that still remains outstanding in September.

A lost board

As has been explored before, many of NBN Co’s failures have stemmed from the board failing to supervise the business properly, partly due to the directors’ lack of construction experience.

The board’s decision to hire political lobbyists to curry favour with the opposition before the election was a new low in the running of Australian government owned corporations and as a result most of the NBN Co directors are in an untenable position.

One of the key tasks facing Malcolm Turnbull in getting the project on track is to rejuvenate the board with directors who have the skills appropriate to supervising the management of such an expensive, complex and vital project.

Ministerial thought bubbles

While much of the responsibility for the National Broadband project running off the rails has to be borne by the board and senior management, ultimately the blame for the NBN’s poor execution has to lie at the feet of the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his Communications Minister Steven Conroy.

Urban legend has it the idea for the project was sketched out on a napkin – this writer has been told it was written on a drinks coaster in the Canberra Qantas Chairman’s Lounge – but whatever the truth is, the NBN suffered from being poorly thought out at the beginning.

A failure to properly scope the project enabled the opposition to deride the questionable assumptions on which the scheme was based upon, it also meant that serious questions of funding, governance and competition policy were overlooked.

The ongoing debacle of the Special Access Undertaking, the SAU, is an indication of ‘policy as a thought bubble’. Access rights and competition implications are something that should have been addressed early in the project, instead of dragging on four years into the project.

Thought bubbles masquerading as policy has become a mark of modern Australian governments. While the Gillard and Rudd governments made this into an art form, Liberal state governments, particularly the NSW O’Farrell government, have shown themselves to be quite capable of floating bizarre schemes born in ministerial advisers’ fevered minds.

In this respect Turnbull’s promise of an independent review of the policy process that led to Labor’s NBN is welcome, however, the opposition’s internet filtering gaffe during the final days of the election campaign is a worrying sign that the Abbott government may be as prone to ‘thought bubbles’ as its predecessor. 

It should not be forgotten that the need for the NBN was born out of thirty years of poorly conceived policies by both Liberal and Labor Federal governments that left large swathes of suburban and regional Australia with substandard communications.

While the incoming Prime Minister might see road building as being the future, for the rest of the world the future lies in communications. How the incoming Federal government manages the NBN could well define Australia’s role in the 21st Century.

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A superb article. Thank you Paul.

A good article. Interesting comment re the recruitment practices. I wonder if there will be a lot of people leaving NBN now ?

> ultimately the blame for the NBN’s poor execution has to lie at the feet of the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his Communications Minister Steven Conroy.

Penny Wong was the other "stakeholder" minister and she should also accept some of the blame.

> NBN suffered from being poorly thought out at the beginning

And continued to be poorly thought out. We see the evidence of this in Labor predicting that 50% would connect at 12Mbps and less than 5% (in 2028) connect at 1Gbps, yet all their promotion focused on the services that only worked if you had a connection faster than 100Mbps.

> It should not be forgotten that the need the National Broadband Network was born out of thirty years of poorly thought out policies by both Liberal and Labor Federal governments that left large swathes of suburban and regional Australia with substandard communications.

Sadly, Labor's policy didn't focus on the suburban areas with poor services (mostly suburbs built from 1970s onward). OPEL would have fixed the backhaul issue in regional Australia which was (and remains) the biggest issue.

A good article. The test for Turnbull will be whether he can get the project/implementation back on track without abandoning the excellent technical solution for a bad.

Not such a "superb" article Paul in my view, as Roger Knight suggests, in fact rather superficial.
Amazingly, you omit to comment, except in passing, how the 'commerciality' of the project that enabled the Government to keep $46 billion (or whatever the final number is) off the books, was never established. Depending on how much Turnbull can save us on a cut down NBN, as to how much has to come back onto the Government books. Want a suggestion? How about for starters, something north of $20 billion (not even counting the time cost of money) shortfall between what the spend is and what it recovers in being ultimately sold off?
I'm not arguing with the merits of fibre optic cable to the door of every household in Australia, far from it, but rather the deception and lies Rudd/Conroy peddled justifying keeping it off the books. In fact, analysis of the NBN business case by the productivity commission was resisted precisely because the Government knew it could never pass for a stand-alone off-balance sheet commercial venture able to be sold off by the Government to recover its cost. Get ready to pay big time ......... Grrrr. Thank God the adults are now back in charge!

What do you mean of the books?
If it was of the books, then nobody would know about it.
When did anybody in the past government say it would be sold off?
How far in the future can the productivity commission look into the future. There are many variables. and they couldn't see more than 20 years.
This is infrastructure for the 22 century.
But just like climate change the reactionary Tory nationalists. Only think with instant gratification in mind. It's not going to benifit me or effect me. I'm not paying for it.
But with Abbots Fascist, where there are openings for back door deals with the telcos. Even now telstra wants to still keep its compensation package for decommissioning the copper network. $11 billion dollars to add to the inferior system.
And when the advances in IT, get to a stage that the home business will need fiber. Who will be paying, the householder through the nose to the telcos. That is Fascism people.

Agree, a good article. Now you can understand why the concern of spending a large amount of cash with a company structure such as the NBN. We all need to remember that we did (once) have a company that did lay very good Aus wide communications infrastructure - world leading in fact. Then we decided to close it down and sell off its parts. Then it was realised that there was no such entity to maintain, continue this.
Conroy was a disaster for the NBN - poor communications (excuse the pun). His Internet filter idea was a brain snap which showed his knowledge of this area.
Lets just get fibre to the node and then maybe fibre to host as needed.

Looking at all the internet filtering scams that arose through out the last decade. From The man of god Howard and his net nanny debacle. To god boy Rudd and his Black list. To the sleazy Mad Monk and his opt out mandatory system.
It was only under an Atheist that the idea was buried. Some thing to think about.

Amazing. Election over and suddenly all in the know are starting to tell the punters what has been wrong for the past two to three years. Had all in the know spoken out beforehand, we may have had the opportunity to save both a good idea and considerable amounts of money.

People who attempted to critique the NBN where howled down by NBN fanbois. Simon Hackett is probably the best example of someone with deep knowledge who wasn't listened to. Mark Gregory should take some of the blame for presenting an NBN utopian vision that while laudable wasn't even close to what Labor were building.

I think the problem is that the opponents of the NBN are so blind to the potential positives of the system that all they have ever done is moan about how it's too fast and too expensive.

If the attitude - from the Coalition and from their sycophantic press - had been "this is a great project being administered abysmally" we may have had NBN Co being held to account appropriately, instead of through the veneer of political small mindedness, which might have fixed a lot of the problems now being faced. And the Coalition would still have won the election on the incompetence of Labor.

Unfortunately, Richard, this has been spoken aboutany times. The figures were a little 'rubbery' but it seemed the issue was really - is it all worth cost today. When you get poor management on top then you can understand the concerns.

Max, for once we agree ;-) As a software developer it astounds me that a Goverment could not sell what I reckon would have been one of the landmark infrastructure projects in Australia's history. The actual implementation of the NBN rollout has been a complete disaster. One can only hope that the pace of technological change in the next few years makes the rollout of FTTP mandatory and FTTN will finally be consigned to the dustbin of history where it belongs. In the long run FTTN will be an appalling waste of money as the upgrade to FTTP will be more costly and take longer than it would to do it the first time. If only the outgoing Government has not been so incompetent at delivery of services...

"The actual implementation of the NBN rollout has been a complete disaster."
I wouldn't say a complete disaster, the work on the ground has only come up against one BS problem. Besides the management and marketing disaster.
That was telecoms asbestos pits, of which telstra has been replacing since the early 1990's. So that in reality was merely a newsertainment industry propaganda blitz.

Did you miss NBNCo cancelling contracts in NT and that work in SA has basically stalled? Not one brownfields area outside of Stage 1 Willunga site completed. If you looked at the Stage 2 maps published by NBNCo prior to the 2010 Federal election half of Adelaide should have been completed.

Suburban sprawl, and vast distances make the NBN an expensive distribution proposition. The same factors cause high economic dependency on cheap oil, big problems with traffic congestion in too big cities, and lifestyles for the employed that include long commute times.
Costs of living will rise extensively as global supplies of conventional oil run out. The Liberal government (and also the ALP) appear to have no plans to manage this problem, which is happening now. Oil price increases will happen frequently. This which will cripple our economy. Social services and public sector jobs, and efficiency amalgamations can only happen once.
The NBN promised to alleviate some of the necessity for distance travel, by providing abilities for high speed video and communication links, for virtual offices.
The other questions after from installation costs, are the future proofing capacity, and the energy costs of running it, reliability and the costs of maintenance and repair of the completed system. With the current increasing fossil fuel crises, the Australian economy may end up not needing an NBN, after it is demolished enough not to be able to afford it. As economic growth will fail, so will the need for evermore consumers and producers of more internet bandwidth.

Future and ongoing costs can be avoided by getting it right in the first place.
The NBN is a system that no nation as large as Australia will want to build more than once over, and minimum maintance and upgrade costs are a necessity. By concentrating on only two aspects, current cost and current rates of uptake, we fail to take care of the future.

Mike Quigley. Given that the author regards this parson as an extremely talented person and Tony Abbott's government should do what it can to keep him, i find it extremely disconcerting that he also says he has made a complete mess of the broadband roll out. What kind of message does this behaviour send to the electorate when someone who stuffs up is handed another very highly paid position to have another go. Most people in this situation would be given the boot. Still the political classes propensity to look after their mates still seems to be more important than good government. No wonder we all have a very low opinion of these people!!

A big fan of throwing babies away with bathwater, then?

Quigley may well be excessively competent in general whilst being completely incompetent at running a huge telecommunications construction company. Removing him from his position of incompetence doesn't mean he can't be of use in another role more suited to whatever his talents.

I don't know why you blame Mike Quigley for not selling the project to the public better. I have the feeling he wasn't allowed. Hopefully the knowledge will be made public soon. As for being behind schedule, take out the time negotiating with Telstra and the oppositions attempts to stall, and it actually is not that far off it's original timetable. If you want to see a project really behind gave a look at BT's rollout in the UK.

So again the Rolls-Royce solution of Labor is being touted as utterly necessary, and the Holden Statesman solution of the Libs is inferior. Well, yes, but who really needs the RR solution? What statistics are available on the number of households that will definitely benefit economically from the RR solution? Of course everyone loves the best, but do they need it. I would suggest that the "inferior" version of NBN will deliver to the vast majority of householders a totally adequate service to satisfy their need for social networking and entertainment. The rest of the connectees (the existing businesses, the new enabled start-ups and entrepreneurs, the 'economic' beneficiaries) can pay the extra necessary for their special needs. This can be written off as a business expense, or even subsidised by the Government under the heading of R&D encouragement. Any business that is viable can afford $5,000 as a communication expense, if that is going to make them more profitable. If it is not going to make them profitable, then it would just be a bad business decision. After all, the telephone became an essential requirement for businesses, big and small, and that had to be paid for. Why is connecting to the NBN now considered to be some sort of Human Right that should be provided at taxpayers' expense by a benevolent government?

An inept comparison. FttH is not a Rolls Royce solution compared to the Holden Statesman FttN - it's between 1 and 40 (with the potential to acquire more) Holden Statesmen compared to between 2 and 4 (hard maximum) Holden Statesmen.

Choosing the latter option for your limo company when you plan to expand to hundreds or thousands of clients is just shooting your future in the foot, to extend the metaphor.

Did Roy support what he think he just said? A company that wants fibre, while taxpayers are to get copper, should be able to spend $5,000 to get fibre, then claim it as a tax deduction?

Surely, this hurts the taxpayer twice? First, because we are funding $29 billion worth of copper infrastructure for Telstra Ltd, and then because we are handing tax revenue back to corporations to build fibre for themselves.

The advances in IT technology are moving forward at the moment all computers are relying on copper and wire internals. Making them inferior to the FTTH NBN. They can't get up to that speed any way.
But fiber optic computers are now at prototype stage. Apple will have them out with in the decade.
Telstra is already saying it still want's then compensation package of $11 billion, That makes a big dent in the statesman model.Bring the cost up close to the price of the Rolls Royce model.
So we go from a future proof national infrastructure, That would be leased to the telcos, Because they would not be able to build a patch work system to compete with the NBN.
To another patch work system, that the telcos own.

What went wrong for Labor's NBN is right there in the title - Labor.

The opening paragraph is only partially correct.

The National Broadband Network was a powerful political weapon for Labor in this year’s Federal election.

It alone was not sufficient to win the election, and would not have been even if the execution had been better and the targets reached earlier.

It is also time for everyone to stop repeating the story about how the policy was "invented". Because the facts of the matter are on the public record.

The expert panel to assess FttN proposals recommended that none be accepted and that it was not an efficient path to FttP. The expert panel said it saw a path forward and that this was communicated to Government. In accordance with the procedures in the Cabinet Handbook the Minister had to get the approval of the Prime Minister to be permitted to bring an alternative policy to the Cabinet. That was granted on a VIP flight in a week the PM was criss-crossing the country talking up confidence in the face of the GFC.

The policy itself was subject to costing by central agencies, consideration by a wide number of other agencies, and multiple meetings of the Special Budget and Priorities Committee of Cabinet before actually going to the full Cabinet.

Everyone has their own personal view of how NBN Co could have operated better, but from the outside the management culture was very little different to the culture that has applied at any of the telcos (three at last count) I've worked for.

This stuff is hard - not easy. NBN Co got far. far more right than it ever got wrong. And yes, building 4,000 FSAMs is a repeated process that the principles of TQM can be applied to.

And to reply to Roy - when Malcolm Turnbull released his Digital Economy policy he identified four countries as the world's leading digital economies. Sweden, Denmark, Korea and Singapore. The first three are in the OECD top four for fibre to the home penetration. Singapore is not in the OECD but has built a full fibre network.

It is simple, you can't be a world leading digital economy without world leading infrastructure.

And the Liberals economic vision - just ask Andrew Robb. On Insiders last Sunday he said that Rudd was wrong to say the ining boom was over, and that when the Coalition removes the mining tax the mining boom will return. Lord Save Me!

Well at least 40% of the mining boom is over. That being coal. But when the mining companies spend up big on tax deductable upgrades to there business. At the same time as lower demand for their commodity.
Seems to be a corupt manipulation of the system.
There is a theory of "the resources curse". Where resource rich countries are socially stagnant, the risk of political corruption is high. The country will gear up to suit the mining industry and forget about other industries.
Sounds like Australia has proven that theory correct.

Coalition Kool-Aid contributed much to Paul Wallbank's characterisation of the NBN history since 2007.

FTTN was tried by Kevin Rudd (called NBN Mark I), but Telstra wanted $20 billion for its copper. The hoped-for budget of $4.7 billion was also found to be insufficient for 12 Mbps service in urban areas, with cost estimated at about $11 billion, for a total cost of $31 billion. Worse, Telstra planned to spend its $20 billion windfall overbuilding with fibre in high income suburbs, cannibalising the government's most valuable customers. It is Telstra's $26 billion purchase of the copper from John Howard which makes FTTN expensive to build now.

With FTTN stymied, the mythical coaster description of the NBN was made by Conroy to Rudd, and further explained during a flight to Darwin. The network design was already done by industry over the preceding decade, Conroy merely explained it to Rudd that evening. $43 billion was the estimated cost, confirmed by a $25 million KPMG/McKinsey NBN Implementation Report in May 2010 which fully examined the costs and risks, chief risk being delays to enabling legislation.

Six days before the August 2010 election, despite massive public support for the NBN, the coalition announced it would hand everything back to Telstra and use copper. The coalition lost an unloseable election, and failed to compromise in negotiations with independents elected in part on a fibre platform, which condemned us to three years of Green-Labor government. Directed by Tony Abbott to "wreck Labor's NBN", Turnbull spent all three years delaying the fibre legislation at every turn, proving what a risk to progress that legislation was.

When the nine-month-late legislation was passed, 99.25% of Telstra shareholders approved an $11 billion deal to remediate and hand over to NBNCo the pits, ducts and exchanges, and migrate customers onto NBN fibre, where massive retail revenues could be earned and a bigger market for Foxtel would be created.

NBNCo has quietly progressed with the wireless and satellite components, on track for 2015 completion. Telstra has got on with remediating and handing over infrastructure (including urgent asbestos training for its contractors - at Telstra expense, not the taxpayer). Almost all the fibre services in use are high end, and over half of premises in fibred areas have taken it up, proving the demand in regional Australia, where the tyranny of distance can be mitigated with excellent broadband.

The coalition should have gone to the 2010 election promising to build FTTP, but with less hamfisted economic oversight. It would have done a better public education campaign. It would have realised that contractors should be directly trained and managed by NBNCo, not by commission-taking companies. It would have brought business up to speed with the benefits of a universal reliable and limitless fibre service being available at every domestic and business premises.

Instead, it has adopted the 7% wireless and satellite footprint (it once advocated all wireless), the user-pays funding model (except that revenue per user is much lower on copper, and it encourages defunct copper and coax to hang around, reducing FTTN revenue further).

The coalition needs to quickly complete its cost-benefit analysis. Then it should assert that it has tested FTTN assumptions and found FTTN to be at risk of the same contractor delays it claimed for FTTP last April, and to yield lower revenues. It will be less resilient in floods and blackouts than FTTN, and will require more energy to run the network. Consequently, with similar time and cost to build FTTN or FTTP, and a quicker return of revenue from FTTP, it will now proceed with FTTP, but based on a CBA it always demanded of Labor.

Yes I will agree that the coalition of the willing would have done a lot better and selling the FTTP NBN.
Propaganda is their forte.

Pity. Labor's NBN would have been better and more economically viable in the long term.

There is a huge difference from a proper plan arrived at after exhaustive engineering and implementation studies and studies/cabinet solutions which occur after the government has publicly announced a massive project when all concerned are in no doubt as to having to produce words on paper which give effect to the Prime Ministers announcement.Under these circumstances external consultants are also in no doubt as to the answer they have to produce if they hope to get more work from the government.To top all this off NBN Co was forced to hire as its PR chief an ex Labor mate of Rudds from Queensland while Communications Minister Stephen Conroy made it apparent that NBN was his baby.It is doubtful that Conroy had any conception of the potential problems which could occur.The fact that his successor Anthony Albanese buried a report on the NBN from May until the election suggests that there were /are major problems which Labor did not want to share with the voters.In the years to come postgraduate courses in public administration will use the way Labor went about the NBN as a case study in poor public policy implementation.It is highly likely that a few Billion dollars of wasted spending has occurred on the way to connecting a miniscule number of premises.The waste will sit inside the national debt for years to come costing huge interest bills to the taxpayers.

"In the years to come postgraduate courses in public administration will use the way Labor went about the NBN as a case study in poor public policy implementation" and first year project management courses will use it as an example of how not to undertake large infrastructure projects.

The shame of it all, is that the project management failings were predicted so early by so many.
Lets hope that Turnbul can get it right this time.

Australia does have the technical knowledge, skills and experience.

I think Graham is referring to the NBN Co Corporate Plan. The truth of that will be available to the incoming Government.

The bulk of the expenditure on NBN Co to date covers the transit network, systems, fixed wireless and satellite. All will be part of the Coalition network. On Malcolm's own figures - assuming $3600 for FTTH (higher than it really is) and $900 for FTTN and 500,000 premises passed before he changes the plan the difference between what has been built and what Malcolm would have built is precisely $1.35 billion.

Well it is all over and nothing discussed here could have changed things because the NBN, so far, is a prime example of how Labour goes about things. Conroy is a bully and a rubber mouth who should have stuck to what he is good at: Branch Stacking. The NBN had become a hole in the water and it is fortunate that we have someone in Government who might just sort things out. Labour should not be allowed anywhere near anything that involves counting past ten.

First, let us all pay credence to the difference between intelligence and education. Second, most of the above only goes to strengthen my views that democracy, although well intentioned, has been hijacked by the vested interests and that most people are simply not intelligent enough to be allowed to vote. Most politicians know how to use this to their advantage.
Turnbull and his future NBN board have slammed every door they could in the face of the project. Look no further than the Telstra approval process for your delays.
I despair at the narrow minded, short sighted and gullible thoughtlessness propagated by the entrenched and opinionated herd.

I call it the duopoly of tyranny. coles and woolworths in retail. The crown and the star corporations in the gaming and unfortunately they have also taken over the tourist industry.
Along with our BS electoral system that has produced a duopoly of conservative/reactionary governance. We haven't even got the power of the mob any more.

Pretty much everything in Paul Wallbanks article is wrong.

The reason why NBN would fail is that if a proper feasibility study was done the cost would come in at around $60-90Bn. The time to build would be around 15-20yrs. And the GPON technology would easily have been shown to not be suitable for the project ie. not fit for purpose. So essentially for those in the know, it was something that had fundamental problems. This would have been realised if the time was taken to do a proper feasibility study on the proposed project, rather than just have politicians fast track it to construction roll-out, which is the most crazy thing you could do, but in this context, it's not something that never happens.

There are obviously many problems with things like the profitability of the network, regulation problems & competition, funding and debt incured, cost / benefit, etc.

I'm looking forward to the report that Abbott promise prior to the election to 'independently' assess this project, i think ziggy would have a hand in that. Once its determined as being a dud project, it would be quickly wound up.

In contrast to the Noalition hypocrisy the ALP drew on the Nolan approach for its’ Better Board Policy for Our ABC, implementing it after winning in 2007. That independent Board appointment process will at the very least provide appointees with the valuable political protection of being seen to have been appointed on merit. It would work just as well for the NBN.