Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has hit out at Visionstream for allegedly slowing work on the national broadband network in Tasmania, due to issues with subcontractors and Telstra pit remediation work.
Turnbull told ABC local radio today Visionstream had “basically downed tools” for at least two months.
A Visionstream spokesperson has been contacted by iTnews for comment.
Visionstream won a $300 million contract with NBN Co in March last year that would see 200,000 Tasmanian homes and businesses connected to fibre within four years.
Turnbull said that contract had been “dead in the water as far as progress is concerned in Tasmania for months” and he had not seen any reports of progress.
He said the project had been “failing Tasmanians”.
A spokesperson for Turnbull later clarified with iTnews that Visionstream’s work on the Tasmanian rollout hadn’t stopped completely but had been “very slow and patchy”.
The spokesperson said the number of sites in operation was “not substantial at all”, and attributed the slowed work to Telstra pit remediation and pay disputes with subcontractors.
Telstra was forced to halt pit-and-pipe remediation work in May for more than two months, after several cases of unsafe asbestos handling were discovered with contractors.
Visionstream was similarly forced to stop work on pit remediation in Tasmania during that time. The stop-work became the catalyst for 200 workers being let go by Visionstream subcontractors who weren’t able to pay them, following long-running disputes over pay.
The Coalition government has recently begun a 60 day strategic review on the NBN which will show “how long it will take and how much it will cost to complete the NBN on the current specifications".
It will put forward options for a faster and more cost effective project, including how to revise the technology of the NBN from Labor’s fibre-to-the-home model to the Coalition’s preferred fibre-to-the-node.