Aust PM defends NBN execs against «smears»

Dylan Bushell-Embling
03 Jan 2011
Daily News

The Australian government has derided as a “personal smear” attempts to link a recent Alcatel-Lucent bribery probe with the state-led company building the National Broadband Network.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard accused opposition leader Tony Abbott of playing smear politics with his suggestion that the recent bribery revelations raise “serious questions” about two senior NBN Co executives, and the circumstances behind their appointments.

Abbot said NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley and CFO Jean-Pascal Beaufret, as former executives at Alcatel-Lucent, presided over a company found to have been “bedeviled with lax management and practices,” the Sydney Morning Heraldreported.

He questioned whether the government can guarantee that the NBN “is being administered better than Alcatel was,” and called on Gillard to reveal what Labor knew about the bribery allegations at the time of their hiring.

But Gillard said that by attacking Quigley Abbot was smearing an Australian businessman who was internationally regarded in the telecom sector, and said the two executives had nothing to do with the bribery allegations.

The spat came days after Alcatel-Lucent agreed to pay $137 million to settle charges of offering bribes for contracts in Asia and Latin America.

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