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PM defends Switkowski

PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has defended Ziggy Switkowski - the man he appointed to lead the National Broadband Network - over the public servant's penning of an opinion piece in breach of the government's caretaker rules.

Mr Switkowski wrote a piece defending the NBN's actions last month in referring to the Australian Federal Police leaks from the NBN to the Labor party.

That referral led to police raids on Labor Senator Stephen Conroy's office and the homes of two Labor staffers. The opinion piece was submitted to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet before it was published by Fairfax Media.

A subsequent investigation into the article, prompted by Labor, found it likely breached the caretaker provisions and had been published against the advice of the PM's department.

The caretaker provisions govern what public servants can and cannot do during the time between the end of one parliament and the election of a new government.

Mr Turnbull, however, said he respected the decision to publish the piece, and the NBN chief had explained why he thought the article was necessary.

The Prime Minister, who also praised Mr Switkowski for doing a "remarkable job", said the NBN chief had felt he needed to "set the record straight" about the raids.

An AFP investigation into the leaks is under way.

They happened last year and led to several media reports claiming the NBN rollout was behind schedule and over budget.

NBN Co has denied the claims and says the rollout is on track.

In other political news yesterday, Labor leader Bill Shorten promised a $100 million package for South Australian steelmaker Arrium, which is under administration.

While not detailing how the money would be spent, Mr Shorten challenged Mr Turnbull to match the pledge, but the PM said it was a "vague offer" and stopped short of offering Coalition support.

Speaking on the ABC, Industry Minister Christopher Pyne questioned the need for government funding of the steel plant given recent reports it might be able to break even this year.

Topics:  national broadband network nbn


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