Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam today claimed Communications Minister Stephen Conroy had received the National Broadband Network implementation study and backed Opposition calls for it to be produced.
“My understanding is that they’ve received it, they’re reading it, they’re making their minds up to whether that will be provided to the parliament,” said Ludlam in the Senate today.
Late in February a spokesperson for the minister’s office said the report had not yet been handed in, noting it was due that month. The implementation study — being put together by consulting firms KPMG and McKinsey, will determine the operating arrangements for the NBN Company, as well as detailing network design and financial details — for example, attracting private sector investment.
However, since NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley came on board last year, the company has already taken action on a number of fronts which the tender documents mentioned would be covered by the implementation study — such as key decisions on network design. The NBN Co has also kickstarted various procurement processes associated with the NBN buildout.
Ludlam said the Greens would this afternoon move an order to ensure the implementation study was tabled in the Senate so that parliamentarians could “get an idea of what they’re assessing” in terms of the Telstra and NBN debates.
He pointed out the Parliament had also been denied access to the full tender documents around the Federal Government’s previous, failed, $4.7 billion NBN process.
Shortly after Ludlam’s demand, the Senate voted on a movement by Opposition Senator Nick Minchin to further delay debate on the Telstra break-up legislation — the Telecommunications Legislation Amentment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards ) Bill — until after the introduction of legislation surrounding the National Broadband Network.
However Minchin’s motion failed — by the close margin of 31 votes to 32 — meaning the Senate will likely continue to debate the Telstra legislation.
The Greens did not support the delay, with Ludlam saying the debate about the legislation should have happened in October last year, and the Opposition was simply attempting to block any further debate on the Telstra break-up legislation.
Minchin claimed the Telstra legislation was “related entirely to the National Broadband Network” and so the Telstra bill should not be debated first.
He claimed Conroy was using the legislation to blackmail Telstra into cooperating with the Government during the negotiation process currently underway on how Telstra could move assets and customers across to the NBN Co’s planned fibre-optic platform.
Ludlam noted he feared the Government would present parliament with a “fait accompli” deal with Telstra, and pointed out the negotiations were taking place “behind the scenes, with no checks and balances” and no role for third parties.
In a fiery speech, Conroy accused the Opposition of obstructionism over blocking legislation. “How many bites of the cherry can you have?” he asked. “Get over it, you lost the last election, you’re not in Government.”
The minister said the Opposition had spent the last two and half years avoiding having a telecommunications policy, and claimed Minchin would just do whatever Telstra asked — including when then-Telstra chief executive Sol Trujillo was in power.
He claimed many Coalition members did support the structural separation of Telstra, but were being led by the “dinosaur” front benchers.
Lastly, Minchin put a figure on the value of the NBN implementation study, noting it had cost $25 million. The Government had allocated $53.2 million for the study in last year’s budget.
Image credit: Delimiter