The Greens have struck a deal with Labor to support Labor’s contentious legislation to restructure the telecommunications industry, on the basis that provisions be included to make it difficult to privatise NBN Co.
The bid is an apparent attempt to avoid repeating what the Greens have publicly claimed for some time as one of the main problems with the telecommunications sector over the past decade — the privatisation of Telstra and the shift of the telco out of government hands and out from under the control of Federal Parliament.
“We feel it is our obligation to make sure that it is as difficult as possible for a future government to privatise the NBN in the future so we have inserted a public interest test and we’ve made sure that it would be submitted to a vote in Parliament,” Greens Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam told the ABC’s AM radio program this morning.
“So that if a future government wants to privatise the NBN there will be some hurdles in the way and they’ll be forced to prove whether or not it is in the public interest.”
This morning, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy published a statement noting that the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009, which provides for the break-up of Telstra, among other matters, had passed the House of Representatives and would now need to be debated in the Senate.
“If the Liberals and Nationals are serious about improving competition in the telecommunications sector and delivering better services for their constituents they need to support the Bill,” Conroy said. Attempts by the Coalition to pass amendments to the bill were blocked in the lower house, and may now be reintroduced in the Senate.
Conroy noted that Telstra itself supported the legislation being passed. For it to pass the Senate, Labor will need to win the support of both Nick Xenophon and Family First Senator Steve Fielding, plus the Greens.
The news comes despite the fact that the Greens are at loggerheads with Labor over another matter — the release of NBN Co’s business case which has been handed to the Government. On the same broadcast, Ludlam and fellow Senator, independent Nick Xenophon, said they had refused a private briefing on the plan due to non-disclosure provisions.
Xenophon, for one, has indicated it will be difficult for him to support the legislation until the business plan has been published.