”The regulatory authorities found that Alcatel was bedevilled with lax management and practices,” Mr Abbott said yesterday. So I’d say to Tony Abbott, and I’d say to the Opposition in general: get out of the politics of smear.” ”That’s how these bribes were paid. Can we be confident that the national broadband network is being administered better than Alcatel was?”

Ms Gillard responded: ”This is a personal smear against a highly regarded businessman [Mr Quigley], actually an Australian recognised for his telecommunications expertise around the world.

The Coalition has seized on the executives’ previous employment, saying there were ”serious questions” for the government to answer. PRIME MINISTER Julia Gillard has leapt to the defence of two NBN Co executives, accusing Opposition Leader Tony Abbott of playing smear politics. Neither Mr Quigley nor Mr Beaufret was involved in the bribe investigation, which resulted in the telco being fined $US137 million. NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley, who is in charge of implementing the national broadband network, and chief financial officer Jean-Pascal Beaufret are former senior executives at French telco Alcatel-Lucent, which has been exposed as having paid bribes to win lucrative contracts in Latin America and Asia.

Advertisement: Story continues below