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Wednesday, 16 September 2009 04:13

NBN Co HQ: states could be chasing a chimera

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The Governments of Australia's three largest states have been touting their respective credentials as the optimum location for the headquarters of the NBN Co in the belief that it will bring significant employment and other financial benefits, but comments made by NBN Co executive chairman, Mike Quigley, suggest that the organisation could have several capital city offices of roughly equal importance.

At his inaugural press conference yesterday, Quigley said that the location and size of NBN offices would be determined by its choice of staff, and that it would be relying heavily on videoconferencing to knit these scattered employees into a cohesive whole.

"We're employing...what we think are the best people wherever they are. We have no intention, by the way, of moving people all around the country. It's very expensive. It's very time consuming. We'll be using some high speed broadband links to have good, high definition videoconferencing between the offices we will have in the major cities. So to be honest the whole issue around the headquarters we just don't need to address at this point in time... We simply will make that decision when it becomes obvious where it should emerge."

The states' battle to host the NBN Co HQ erupted within days of its announcement on 7 April. A week later Queensland had already put up its hand offering taxpayer funded sweeteners to secure the headquarters and iTWire reported a swift response from Victoria with treasurer and minister for information and communication technology, John Lenders, saying: "No other city in the nation has the telecommunications capability, such a skilled workforce ready to embark on a project like this and is in the ideal geographic location to become the centre of the project."

Victoria has pursued the NBN HQ with great zeal: two months later it opened a $50 million broadband institute at Melbourne University with premier John Brumby saying: "This institute is another reason why Victoria is the natural home of the NBN Corporation along with Victoria's impressive reputation in broadband-related research and development."

Meanwhile, in May, NSW premier Nathan Rees announced the formation of the NBN Task Force "to accelerate rollout of the NBN in NSW." It had securing the NBN headquarters for NSW as one of four key objectives. He later announced the team to head the state's bid for the NBN. It included the state's chief scientist, Mary O'Kane and the head of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, former state Liberal MP Patricia Forsythe. Rees also released a three minute video http://more.nsw.gov.au/nbnsydney touting the state's credentials as host of the NBN HQ.

Shadow communications minister, Nick Minchin described the (Labor) states' collective performance as "gratuitous grandstanding", "ridiculous: and "embarrassing".

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