NBN Co was happy to splash cash. Image: Shutterstock
NBN Co doled out $77.5 million in bonuses to staff and executives in the last six months of 2020 – $34 million more than it paid out in the entire 2018-19 financial year.
The government released the figures last week in response to questions on notice from a senate estimates committee in early December.
NBN executives received $4.3 million under the scheme while employees pocketed the remaining $73 million between July and September 2020.
In all of the 2018-19 financial year, NBN executives took home $3.2 million and employees got $40 million in bonuses.
Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland drew comparison between the NBN incentive scheme and the gift of four Cartier watches to Australia Post executives which saw its CEO Christina Holgate leave her position.
“Scott Morrison effectively sacked the CEO of Australia Post on the floor of the Parliament for spending $20,000 on Cartier watches,” Rowland said.
“Where does the Prime Minister stand on NBN Co executives deciding to pay out $78 million in unjustified corporate bonuses during the worst recession since the Great Depression?
“The amount of taxpayer waste occurring under [Communications Minister Paul Fletcher] is extraordinary.”
Fletcher answered a question about the NBN bonuses in parliament last week and was loudly jeered when he said Holgate “chose to resign”.
“We acknowledge her performance during her time in that role but those are the facts,” Fletcher said during Question Time.
“A large portion of the number quoted in the media today goes to a very large number of staff across NBN.
“Under the terms of their employment, there is base pay and there is at-risk pay.”
An NBN spokesperson said the ‘at-risk’ component of pay – the bonus scheme – for executives and employees were “only awarded if certain targets are met at the end of the performance period and subject to board approval”.
In its 2020 annual report, NBN said its board was “satisfied” the requirements for executive ‘short-term incentives’ were met since the government-run business “successfully completed the initial build” and “significantly overachieved” in other areas of its goals such as the number of premises ready to connect to the network and a reportedly high level of customer satisfaction.
The government performed an about-face last year when it announced a $4.5 billion cash injection into the network in order to give more Australians the option of signing up to a fibre-to-the-premises service.
Its move toward a full-fibre NBN prompted cries of a backflip from the government which routinely criticised Labor’s intended fibre rollout for being unnecessary and expensive.
On Monday, the Nine newspapers reported seeing previously hidden figures from NBN showing a plan to deliver full-fibre NBN for $10 billion less than the over $50 billion the Coalition claimed it would cost in 2013.
But Malcolm Turnbull, Communications Minister at the time, defended the Coalition’s multi-technology mix NBN that was ultimately rolled-out across the country, telling the Nine papers a full fibre NBN “would have been about half-finished with terrible consequences for work-from-home” by the end of a COVID-affected 2020.