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