Our new national first priority is to find a new national first priority for the NBN
Falling off the fiscal cliff and flying like a swan that's only got a left wing

I wrote this oped piece for the Sydney Morning Herald just on two years ago

Alcatel links that secured Labor power deserve  scrutiny

January 7,  2011

Mike Smith


It was an odd thing for a bloke to utter when he also says, ''I can't even  operate a computer. I haven't got one on my desk. But I've got people in here  who can.''

Why did he hand government to Labor? Windsor said it was the national  broadband network. ''It was the game breaker. If they stuff it up, I get stuffed  too,'' he said.

As she sniffed the breeze after the election, Julia Gillard wrote to the  independents. ''Would you like a briefing with the chief executive office and  director of NBN Co, Mr Mike Quigley? He would be best placed to provide you with  the technical information on aspects of the NBN.''

Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter met Quigley on August 31. Quigley had a  bit at stake - persuade the independents to back Labor and the NBN and he kept  his $2 million a year job. If they went the other way, NBN Co and  fibre-to-the-home were cactus.

Quigley seems to have converted Windsor into an evangelist for fibre, and no  doubt there were sighs of relief from the executives at NBN Co and at  Alcatel-Lucent, the company that has been handed $70 million in NBN contracts  and which stands to gain many hundreds of millions more.

When he announced Quigley's appointment to NBN Co, Senator Stephen Conroy  said: "Mr Quigley has had a distinguished 36-year career at Alcatel, one of the  world's largest telecoms technology and network deployment companies. He was  most recently president and chief operating officer of the company, leading more  than 55,000 staff and responsible for operations in 130 countries."

Alcatel claims it is the word's leading provider of fixed broadband services.  But the world is going mobile and Alcatel-Lucent is being left behind. It needs  more fixed broadband business.

This is not a story just about broadband. By convincing Windsor and  Oakeshott, Quigley's presentation skills may also have determined who was to  govern Australia.

It is worth looking at the history of Alcatel under the leadership of Quigley  and his chief financial officer, Jean-Pascal Beaufret.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission says that Alcatel, with Quigley as  president and chief operating officer, paid bribes to win business. Alcatel has  been fined $137 million for corrupt practices.

A US court document says the heads of several Alcatel subsidiaries and  regional bosses, some of whom reported to Alcatel's executive committee,  authorised high commission payments and so they knew, or were reckless in not  knowing, that Alcatel paid bribes to foreign officials.

NBN Co says that neither Quigley nor Beaufret ''had any involvement in the  matters that were the subject of the SEC announcement'' and the actions of  individual employees ''fell outside the accountability and jurisdiction'' of  Quigley and Beaufret.

Really? The SEC says that Alcatel was run by an executive committee made up  of senior officers including the chief executive and chief financial  officer.

In every bribery scheme in the complaint, the head of the relevant  subsidiaries and geographic regions were aware of or ignored indications that  employees were using consultants to pay bribes to foreign officials.

The offences for which Alcatel has been fined happened because of lax  management - like the lax management that led to waste in the Building the  Education Revolution scheme, and the waste, deaths and house fires in the roof  insulation scandal.

There is a common thread here - big talk, big vision, big future promises,  happy days - then a culture of slackness and lax management, rorts and, in  Alcatel's case, bribes and crimes. There are enough links between Labor, NBN Co  and Alcatel to raise serious questions.

In November 2009 Conroy's then media adviser, Tim Marshall, accepted a  position with Alcatel-Lucent Australia as its external affairs director - before  Alcatel was awarded its first contract for the network.

Conroy personally recommended the Labor figure Mike Kaiser for the $450,000  job as government relations manager at NBN Co - a job that was never  advertised.

Conroy said he was not a close friend of Kaiser. Kaiser was state secretary  of the Queensland division of the Labor Party and was elected as an MP in that  state's parliament in 2000. Kaiser appointed Conroy to scrutinise for him during  vote counting at his election. Kaiser later resigned his seat after being named  in a Criminal Justice commission report into electoral rorting.

Kaiser went on to be the chief-of-staff for the NSW premier before moving  back to a similar position for Anna Bligh in Queensland.

We'll never know whether Windsor would have handed government to Gillard if  he had known about Alcatel-Lucent's history or its links to Labor in Australia.  But there are questions to be answered about the whole NBN business.

Mike Smith is Fairfax Radio's 2UE drive time presenter. He has held  senior executive positions in the telecommunications  industry.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/alcatel-links-that-secured-labor-power-deserve-scrutiny-20110106-19hi8.html#ixzz2GNiZ2P00