Ministers for the Department of Communications and the Arts

Independent audit of the NBN policy process

7 March 2014

The Government has appointed Mr Bill Scales AO to conduct an independent audit of the public policy process that led to the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Mr Scales brings a wealth of experience in public policy and telecommunications to the role. Over a forty-year career he has held leadership positions in the public and private sectors, including spells as Chairman of the Industry Commission (now the Productivity Commission), Secretary of Victoria’s Department of Premier and Cabinet, and Group Managing Director for regulatory and corporate affairs at Telstra.

The independent audit will investigate the advice, decisions and policy processes that led to the National Broadband Network policy and establishment of NBN Co.

The terms of reference provided to Mr Scales are attached (Appendix A).

Over the past eight years Mr Scales has served on important public inquiries initiated by both Coalition and Labor governments, including:

  • Member of the reference group appointed by the Australian Government in 2013 to provide advice on implementation of the New Colombo Plan
  • Member of the expert panel appointed by the Victorian Government in 2011 to conduct the ‘Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry’
  • Member of the expert panel appointed by the Australian Government in 2010 to review school funding (the ‘Gonski Review’)
  • Member of the expert panel appointed by the Australian Government in 2008 to review the higher education sector (the ‘Bradley Review’)
  • Chair of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) review in 2006 of the energy sector.

Mr Scales has additionally been involved with many private and not-for-profit organizations. He is currently Chancellor of Swinburne University, President of the Business-Higher Education Roundtable, and on the board of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. In 2003 he received the Centenary Medal for outstanding service to business and commerce.

Mr Scales will report to the Government within four months of today’s appointment.

The audit is in addition to a review of governance within NBN Co that is being conducted by KordaMentha.


The Minister for Communications and the Minister for Finance will appoint an individual to conduct an independent audit into the public policy process that resulted in the establishment of NBN Co Limited (‘NBN Co’).

The audit is to cover the period from April 2008 (when the Australian Government issued a request for proposals for a national broadband network solution) to May 2010 (when the implementation study for the National Broadband Network (‘NBN’) was released).

The audit should:

(A) Outline the public policy process undertaken to support decisions by the Australian Government relevant to the NBN policy. This should include a description of:

  • the advice and processes that led to the establishment of NBN Co
  • the origin and basis for NBN Co’s mandate to run fibre to the premises (FTTP) to 90-93 per cent of Australian premises
  • the approach taken in regard to obtaining cost benefit or independent reviews of the project.

(B) Provide recommendations in relation to the NBN public policy process. This should include recommendations on what future actions should be taken by the Australian Government when considering major projects / reforms such as the NBN.

It is expected that the independent auditor will consult with relevant entities and individuals (both within and outside Government) and will access legally available information. These enquiries and the information provided will necessarily be constrained as the terms of reference raise matters where access to information is restricted.

Appendix B: Bill Scales, AO, BEc (Monash) FIPAA, FAICD

Mr Bill Scales AO is a qualified Fitter and Machinist, holds a Bachelor of Economics degree from Monash University and has completed the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. Mr Scales is the Chancellor of Swinburne University of Technology, a Member of the Veolia Environment Australia- New Zealand Advisory Board and President of the Business Higher Education Roundtable. Bill is an Australian Government appointed Member of the Civil Society 20 (C20) Steering Group to contribute to Australia’s G20 presidency in 2014. He is also a Member of the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan Reference Group.

In recent years, Bill has been involved as Chair or a Panel Member on a number of important Public Inquiries and reviews including: The 2011 ‘Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry’, conducted by the Victorian Government; the 2010 ‘Gonski Review’ conducted by the Federal Government; the 2008 ‘Bradley Review’ into the Higher Education Sector; and the 2006 Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) review into Australia’s Energy Sector.

In 1993, Bill was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to industry and in 2003 he was awarded the Centenary Medal for outstanding service to business and commerce. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia, and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

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