More please. Mr Quigley, could you take the Communications Minister and his shadow aside and run through Communications 101 with them?
We didn’t get to see his facial expressions or body language – and he was cautious on speaking out – but NBNco’s executive chair, Mike Quigley, gave a solid performance in first press conference this week. (Listen to it here).
In fact, he probably achieved far more in terms of building mutually respecting relationships with the media and arguably, by default, with the public, than both Senator Stephen Conroy and his shadow, Nick Minchin, have done in the entire time they have been in office.
Why? Common sense and talent.
Quigley handled every question thrown at him; from Telstra’s break up to job creation, and where service providers will plug into the network to consumer pricing. He knew the topics and he knew what he wanted to say.
Sure, he didn’t give too much away and some of the journos may feel he should have said more, but across the gamut of questions he provided common sense answers.
For example, when asked about the Federal Government’s decision to force Telstra to structurally separate, he said he hadn’t had time to look at the details and it really was a government policy decision that he wasn’t involved in. Fair enough – it had only been announced two hours earlier and he was at a conference all morning.
On what consumers would pay for their broadband with the NBN, he said it would depend on the market and that many of the forecasts made in reports that have come out since April were based on pretty big assumptions. Fair? Definitely – the market realities, which will change over time, will determine what price we all pay and NBNco must adhere to what the market wants or it will fail.
But the thing that struck me – perhaps because of the ridiculous approach of the ministers in recent times – was his courtesy. We all know journalists can be a pain the proverbial and can ask daft questions. Even the most patient have lost their cool from time to time. But the big difference between Quigley and the way our pollies behave is, surprise, surprise, he politely used journalists’ first names and maintained a friendly demeanour. There was no petulant refusal to answer questions, hardly any spin and a glaring, but welcome lack of patronisation.
Compare (the recording of his press conference here) with any of the interviews conducted by Conroy or Minchin over the last few days.
In my view, the task for Quigley now is to ensure he provides the media and public at large access to himself and his team along with all the information regarding the NBN in a timely and completely open fashion. It is, after all, the tax payers’ money being spent.
And, while he’s at it, can he give a few pointers to Messrs Conroy and Minchin on how to behave? I think we'd all be grateful for that.