Michael Bailey Deputy editor

Michael has been a business journalist for 12 years. He has extensive experience editing magazines covering funds management, commercial property and the travel industry. In 2011 he won a Citi Excellence in Financial Journalism award for a BRW cover story on economic indicators.

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Updated: NBN picks its moment to admit targets missed as skills shortages start to bite

Published 21 March 2013 16:29, Updated 10 April 2013 07:32

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Updated: NBN picks its moment to admit targets missed as skills shortages start to bite

At an interestingly timed press conference today, NBN chief executive Mike Quigley admitted to a three-month delay on its June 30 target deadline.

National Broadband Network chief executive Mike Quigley has denied deliberately timing yesterday’s announcement that rollout targets would be missed by at least three months.

As Labor Party leadership speculation engulfed Canberra, NBN Co’s board met yesterday morning, then issued a statement to say contractors had progressed slower than hoped.

Special criticism was reserved for Syntheo, the joint venture between Lend Lease and Service Stream, which will continue to build the NBN in WA and SA but yesterday had its Northern Territory responsibilities taken over by NBN Co. itself.

Syntheo has in the past complained of not being able to attract staff in mining-dominated WA. It emerged yesterday that not a single WA home has been passed with fibre for 20 months.

Quigley’s June 30 target of installing fibre cables in 341,000 homes and businesses across Australia will now not be hit until the end of September at the earliest.

The June 30 number was revised down to between 190,000 and 220,000 premises.

“We are accountable for the delay and are disappointed it has occurred,” Quigley said, later refuting Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull’s accusation that he had “taken out the garbage” under the cover of Labor’s leadership dramas.

Quigley said that in the case of the volume fibre rollout, NBN Co’s public projections had been underpinned by commitments from its four construction contractors to meet the June 30 target.

“The problem is we are just not seeing the ramp up of construction workers on the ground that would be needed to deliver these targets.”

“This lack of mobilisation, combined with some of our contractors recently lowering their forecasts, has led us to make the judgment call to reforecast our end of year projections.”

Turnbull said this morning that if the Coalition is elected, it would re-examine the construction contracts for the NBN.

“It may be that Syntheo for example is in breach of its contract. It may be its contract can be terminated lawfully,” he told ABC Radio’s AM program.

NBN chair Harrison Young stood down at yesterday’s meeting to be replaced by NBN board member and Ten director Siobhan McKenna.

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