Turnbull files private members’ bill for NBN transparency


updated Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull today revealed he had garnered Coalition support for a private member’s bill that would force Labor to disclose key financial details of its flagship National Broadband Network project and conduct a cost/benefit analysis into its construction.

A statement issued by Turnbull’s office this afternoon said the National Broadband Network Financial Transparency Bill (2010) would require NBN Co to produce and publish a detailed, 10-year business plan for the $43 billion project, including key financial and operational indicators.

“It also requires the Productivity Commission to conduct a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis of the NBN and report back to Parliament by 31 May 2011,” said Turnbull’s statement.

The bill’s survival in both houses is likely to hinge upon support from minor parties like the Greens as well as several independents. This afternoon, Greens Communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam said the Greens would evaluate Turnbull’s bill before making a decision on which way to vote.

“The Australian Greens Party Room will consider whether this is a serious bid for relevance and transparency, or another in a long line of Coalition delaying tactics designed to destroy the network,” Ludlam said in a statement.

According to the bill, the Productivity Commission would be required to analyse the current availability of broadband across Australia (including identifying areas where services are of a lower standard/higher price than in capital cities) and consider the most cost-effective and speediest options by which all Australians could receive fast broadband.

In addition, the commission would need to analyse the economic, productivity and social benefits likely to flow from better broadband, and the applications that would be likely to be used. And a “full and transparent economic and financial assessment” would be conducted into the NBN.

Turnbull has proposed that a Joint Select Committee be established from both houses of parliament to oversee the NBN rollout — including Government, Opposition and cross-bench MPs and Senators.
“The Coalition will be seeking Government and cross-bench support for the Private Member’s Bill and Motion in both houses,” said Turnbull’s statement.

Comment is being sought from all sides of politics as to whether they would support the bill.

At least one aspect of the information that Turnbull is currently seeking is already being put together. NBN Co is known to be finalising the business plan for the next few years of its operations, for delivery to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy later this month. However, it remains unclear whether the document will be released.

Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull


  1. As someone who lives in regional Australia, I’m not interested in “the most cost-effective and speediest options”, I want the best option – Fibre. Yes its expensive, but what’ll be more expensive is implement something less now, then realising that mistake in 5 years and having to go with fibre anyway.

  2. As someone who lives in regional Australia, I’m not interested in “the most cost-effective and speediest options”, I want the best option – Fibre. Yes its expensive, but what’ll be more expensive is implementing something less now, then realising that mistake in 5 years and having to go with fibre anyway.

  3. “the most cost-effective and speediest options by which all Australians could receive fast broadband.”

    That seems rather loaded. Of course we know the NBN is not the “cheapest” but it IS the most future-proof of any of the possibilities I’ve seen.

  4. Whether or not people agree or disagree with the NBN Turnbull is right to make sure it’s an open and fully costed project. It’s $43bn of our money.

    • +1. Conroy should at the very least release the NBN Co business plan — if not — what is there to hide? There couldn’t possibly be any commercial in confidence information at this point.

  5. It’s just awesome that a man who was chair of a company found to have breached the trade practices act infringing the copyright of an Australian software developer is wanting to ensure the propriety of the most promising communications project in generations.
    (see Trumpet Software v OzEmail (1996, Federal Court of Australia, Justice Heerey))

      • I fail to see why.
        Just because Mr Turnbull is incredibly rich and powerful?
        His then company acted extremely poorly toward another Australian technology company.
        This is a matter of record as judged by the Australian legal system, it’s not just a matter of opinion.
        Now he is the champion of transparency and righteousness.

        Those who cannot remember the past…

          • I am not saying the issues are directly related, merely pointing out that the dealings of Mr Turnbull’s past business have been less than honorable.
            As such he has no claim to ethical high ground in terms of technology in Australia.
            Great business success yes, but this success is not without mighty blemish.
            Mr Turnbull is in public office. As such his public history is all relevant in terms of our understanding of the nature of his caracter.
            Do you propose we ignore the inconvenient fact that his big technology company trod all over a small technology company Renai? Because it was 14 years ago?

            Personally I quite like what I know of Mr Turnbull; he seems extremely intelligent and good humoured, I appreciate greatly his work around the issues of an Australian republic and environmental responsibility.
            His current wrecker approach to the NBN is ingenuous and small minded, I personally feel it does not do him justice.

  6. Interesting that Mister Malcolm “Nobody would ever need speeds quicker than a few mbps” Turnbull chooses to use an ethernet cable for his laptop, rather than a wireless solution.

        • Yeah? It’s common for people to have gigabit ethernet connections in the office. But do we need gigabit broadband just yet? Opinions wildly diverge on that matter.

          • I bet people wondered if we needed all those lanes on the Sydney Harbour bridge when it was planned too.
            Now it is over capacity at least twice a day.

            ‘need … just yet’ is wrong headed in respect to state scale infrastructure, adequate for future generations is more correct.

          • Why would one possibly need Gigabit around the office to pass a couple of Word or Powerpoint files around? It’s not as if MT would be dealing with petabyte datasets on his desktop. And if he is, he would probably have some need to access same dataset at home so he can telecommute when possible. As I said, rubbish.

          • It’s not necessarily a matter of “needing” gigabit at the office. Most enterprise switches these days are auto-sensing 10/100/1000Mbps.
            Most people in corporate environments use some form of terminal services at home, so the whole file/dataset is not transmitted, just the screen images.

          • If you don’t need a gigabit, the answer is simple. Don’t buy the gigabit service. If you don’t think a gigabit service should even exist, or that NBN Co should not buy gigabit-capable ports, then surely some justification is needed other than “I don’t need it”.

            The question is “what’s the cheapest fibre port for NBN Co to buy?” If the gigabit kit is the same price as the 100 Mbps kit – over the equipment life, not just the purchase price – than that’s what you buy.

  7. Good for you Mr Turnbull. Hard working taxpaying Australian families deserve to know exactly how much of their monies is being blown away on this $43bn NBN white elephant. What is Conroy hiding?

  8. All available information should be made available to the public. The business case will be put together using taxpayers money. Therefore the taxpayers have a right to study it. They might even have helpful sugestions to make. What is there to hide? What is Conroy scared of? It might all be good news!

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