[Editor's note: this story took place before the change in Prime Minister and ministerial shuffle.]
Stephen Rue has been announced as the new CEO of NBN Co amidst the government's leadership saga.
NBN Co has been searching for a new boss since former CEO Bill Morrow announced his resignation in April, after five years in the job.
“I am honoured to lead the dedicated and hardworking team here at NBN Co, as well as continuing to work with our industry partners. I joined NBN Co because I knew it would make a difference to Australians. I look forward to continuing this journey, which will have a real impact on health, education, job creation and prosperity into the future,” said Rue on his appointment.
Rue will officially begin his new role on 1 September.
A former News Corp executive, Rue joined NBN Co in 2014 as a member of the executive committee and has most recently been operating as the company's chief financial officer.
His new title will see him collect a salary of $1.8 million with the potential of a 50% annual bonus if “key milestones” are achieved.
One such milestone could be the completion of the network, which NBN Co maintains is still on track for 2020.
Chair of NBN Co, Dr Ziggy Switkowski, said it was important to look internally for Morrow’s replacement.
“The appointment of a quality internal candidate reduces the risk of loss of momentum in the business from the leadership change, and ensures continuing ownership and accountability for delivery of the NBN Co Corporate Plan,” he said.
Under Morrow's leadership 4.2 million Australian households have been connected to the National Broadband Network.
At the close of 2017 NBN Co recorded revenue of $891 million – up 121% on half-yearly results.
But issues with connections and customer experience have plagued much of Morrow’s tenure, with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman revealing it had received around 27,000 complaints about the network in the 2016-17 financial year.
In a combined statement, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann paid homage to Morrow for his “exemplary leadership,” while also welcoming the appointment of Rue.
The opposition reacts
The fact the announcement was made just 24 hours after Peter Dutton’s failed ‘libspill’ leadership challenge was not lost on the Australian Labor Party, who criticised the government for allowing such a move at a time when Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull’s leadership was increasingly uncertain and an election before Christmas looked likely.
“Labor does not consider the appointment of a permanent NBN Co CEO this close to the election to be appropriate, particularly given the dysfunctional state of the Turnbull Government,” said Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland and Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers in a statement.
“This appointment is exactly why Bill Shorten today wrote to Malcolm Turnbull asking him to cease taking any actions that may bind the decisions of an incoming government, in line with caretaker conventions.
“We have made our view clear that the appointment of the CEO should have been an interim one.”