ABC Interview: Skybridge Whistleblower and NBN safety issues





SUBJECTS:  Skybridge Whistleblower and NBN safety issues

JOURNALIST: A whistle blower AM has spoken has asked to remain anonymous, so we’ll call him Nick. We’ve also used an actor to tell his story. Nick’s working on the NBN’s Sky Muster roll out in remote Western Australia. He’s often working on cattle stations, hundreds of kilometres away from the next town. But the company he’s contracted to, Skybridge, won’t pay for him to take someone with him.


NICK: They expect us to advise the home owner or authorised person to be our rescue person, so we’re required to work in rope for restraint on the roof – if we do happen to get entangled on the roof or something like that – an untrained, possibly elderly person, is expected to be the one who gets us out of trouble.


JOURNALIST: He says the NBN could be the Coalition’s pink bats scheme:  a Rudd Government project which left four young installers dead.


NICK: It’s possible - a serious accident on site where the person who is supposed to be helping you is unable – I think it’s entirely possible. There’s also the fact of doing long hours, we’re talking sort of 1000kms in a day sometimes, plus a 3-4 hour work site, that doesn’t take into account any rest breaks, so there’s at least 14 hour days solo so fatigue on long drives is also an issue.


JOURNALIST: Nick says Skybridge’s business model is also wasting money. He says the company doesn’t allow installers to start a job without sending through a quote if they think it will take more than 2.5 hours. It sees Nick get paid to drive hundreds of kilometres only to turn around and drive back without so much as opening his toolbox.


NICK: It’s just highly inefficient when we know what’s required in the first place.


JOURNALIST: Complicating matters once he gets to a job site, he’s expected to photograph it using the company’s Skypad app, which frequently crashes, and he says duplication is rife.


NICK: One of our furthest trips which was about 550 kilometres, we’ve arrived on site and within an hour of being there another contractor has rocked up to work on the house next to us.


JOURNALIST: Nick says he discovered he was the fifth installer to visit another property and still doesn’t think the jobs been finished. He says he believes Skybridge’s practices are blowing out the cost of some jobs by hundreds of dollars.


NICK: Definitely, hundreds, in some cases thousands.


JOURNALIST: The Shadow Minister for Regional Communications, Stephen Jones, says Nick’s claims are alarming.


STEPHEN JONES: This is a terrible situation where quite literally lives are being put at risk. I again call on the Minister to conduct an independent enquiry of the roll out of Sky Muster. These sorts of stories are growing by the day and then we see these ridiculous mind boggling inefficiencies which are being put in place by the contractors and it’s simply not good enough.


JOURNALIST: In a statement the NBN said Skybridge is a contractor to its delivery partner Ericsson, but it said it treats any safety allegations like the ones in this story seriously, and is always looking to improve efficiency. Ericsson sent a similar statement. A spokesman for the Minister for Regional Communications, Fiona Nash, said safety is of the upmost importance to her and she’ll be making enquiries with the NBN. Skybridge did not respond.