Mike Quigley was the right choice

James Riley
Editorial Director

Everyone has an opinion about Mike Quigley’s performance as the founding CEO of the NBN Company. No-one seems shy about sharing their view. So here’s my two-bits.

Mike Quigley was the right man for the job, and he has made an enormous contribution.

That the National Broadband Network has been a lightning rod for debate and controversy has little to do with Quigley’s running of the company and everything to do with the poisonous political climes we inhabit.

Quigley was the right man, with the right temperament, who was available at the right time.

And he has chosen the right time to resign. Once Stephen Conroy had stepped down as communications minister, Quigley was further exposed to the politics of the project.

Senator Conroy, of course, was the buttress – the staunch political and personal supporter. Once Conroy disembarked, Quigley’s resignation was always going to be sooner rather than later. The fortunes of both have been inextricably linked.

That Quigley’s performance is being judged harshly right now is also to be expected. But his contribution as the first employee of NBN Company has been immense. People forget where we have come from.

When the NBN project was first mooted as a modest $7 billion project when Kevin Rudd was a mere leader of the Opposition in 2007, the Australian telecommunications sector was a very different beast.

Telstra dominated the market completely. The Telstra board was at war with the Howard Government. The industry’s second and third tier carriers were waging a guerrilla lobbying campaign against the incumbent, and the regulators were struggling to create an environment where the industry could meet its productivity promise.

The system was broken. It was not delivering much-needed infrastructure investment, nor internationally competitive consumer prices. And the regions were not getting adequately served.

And of course the industry was full of hate and division. (which I suppose is situation normal for the sector.)

By the time Quigley was named, the NBN project had become a partisan issue, and the die-in-a-ditch, dagger-between-the-teeth nature of the debate had already taken hold.

Finding an executive with the gravitas, the experience and the inclination to step into this environment was always going to be difficult. The fact that Quigley was available was remarkable.
He was an outsider with an insiders knowledge. He was an international executive who happened to be Australian. And he’s done a decent job.

Pugnacious though he undoubtedly is, Stephen Conroy was a great Communications Minister and will be judged as such. Anyone who can bring a $37 billion infrastructure down the pipe in the ICT sector is deserving a recognition.

The NBN Company’s first chief executive Mike Quigley also deserves acknowledgement.

And by all reports, a very decent man too.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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