The latest public hearing for the Select Senate Committee on the National Broadband Network convened in Canberra yesterday, and for the first time – the entire hearing seemed relatively productive and much less like a cat fight.
If you remember at the last Senate Budget Estimates hearing, the NBN Co hearing was abruptly stopped before its designated time slot had finished after the chair Senator John Williams insisted to end the session that had started earlier than scheduled.
While the makeup and the dynamics of this Select Senate Committee is vastly different from a Budget Estimates hearing, both NBN Co and the opposition senators are beginning to “give way” to one another.
NBN Co, under the leadership of 10 week new CEO Bill Morrow, has become far more open and helpful in these hearings compared with previous hearings where interim CEO Ziggy Switkowski led the way. Executives are beginning to loosen up, trying to find answers for Senators during the session rather than leaving everything “on notice”. They’re even throwing in the occasional joke for the public record. Perhaps too, the executives are beginning to settle into their roles and are being increasingly accustomed to the vigour and detail explored in these hearings – especially the questioning from Senator Conroy.
The tides are turning too, with opposition senators from both Labor and Greens recognising that Fibre to the Node has become a reality that is likely unstoppable for the near future. There appears to be a shift of questioning from continual criticism of the MTM NBN to a more technology-centric discussion about the “new” rollout technologies. Neither Conroy nor Ludlam agree with the MTM shift (they’ve simply accepted it as a fact); however, the friendlier side of both sides were definitely on show during this hearing.
Far more was learnt about the proposed product constructs for the NBN Copper Access Service (NCAS) and about the rollout trials than previously. The fact that the executives are opening up to more detailed questioning is great news.
It’s also been great to see Senator Ludlam step up his questioning for the executives. Recent appointment of Renai LeMay (founder of independent technology news site, Delimiter) as Parliamentary Business and Communications Advisor to Senator Scott Ludlam has certainly seen increased vigour in questioning by the tech-savy Greens senator who has always taken a unique perspective on questioning. I look forward to more questioning from Senator Ludlam.
Embedded below is a quick highlights reel of yesterday’s hearing: