news Technology media outlet Delimiter today filed a Freedom of Information request with Infrastructure Australia, seeking to determine the organisation’s undisclosed rationale for its recommendation today that the Federal Government split up the NBN company into chunks and privatise the whole lot.
Today Infrastructure Australia released what it billed as a 15-year Infrastructure Plan and associated priority list, marking what the agency said was 18 months of work (presumably since the 2013 Federal Election). The agency said the “first of its kind” plan delivered a roadmap to “more affordable, innovative and competitive infrastructure”.
Page 110 of the plan (available in PDF format online) deals with Infrastructure Australia’s vision for the future of the National Broadband Network project.
In its document, Infrastructure Australia states baldly that over the medium-term period, the Federal Government should “transfer NBN Co to private ownership”, including options for splitting the NBN company into chunks on either technological or geographical grounds. However, Infrastructure Australia did not include any rationale or evidence for why it had made the recommendation.
Delimiter has attempted to contact Infrastructure Australia to invite comment on the basis for the recommendation.
In addition, Delimiter today filed a Freedom of Information application with Infrastructure Australia seeking key pieces of information which may inform the public how Infrastructure Australia formed the view that the NBN company should be split up and sold off.
You can follow Delimiter’s FOI request on the Right to Know website here. Delimiter has requested that Infrastructure Australia release:
- A list of documents, articles and any other reference material that Infrastructure Australia consulted before coming to the view that the NBN company should be privatised
- A list of organisations and individuals that Infrastructure Australia consulted before coming to the view that the NBN company should be privatised
- A list of individuals within Infrastructure Australia who contributed towards the agency’s view that the NBN company should be privatised
- Any email communication since the 2013 Federal Election between Infrastructure Australia and the office of the Communications Minister (including the current Minister, Senator Mitch Fifield, and the previous Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull) on the topic of privatising the National Broadband Network
The NBN is Australia’s largest ever infrastructure project and consists of a platform which will be used by all Australians to meet their future telecommunications needs. With this in mind, Delimiter believes it would be strongly in the public interest for the above documents to be released, in order to provide a better basis for what is expected to be a strong and protracted national debate on whether the NBN company should be privatised.
It is believed that the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens would be likely to oppose any privatisation effort with relation to the NBN company, meaning that the Federal Government would be forced to seek the assistance of crossbench Senators to get legislation privatising the NBN company through the Senate.
Although a Federal Election is slated to be held later this year, the make-up of the Senate would not change until mid-2017, due to the fact that Senators hold fixed terms for six years. The Senate last changed its composition (to reflect the 2013 Federal Election) in July 2014.
Delimiter will publicly release and analyse any documents that it receives from Infrastructure Australia as a result of this Freedom of Information request.