news The Government has used its dominance of the House of Representatives to reject amendments successfully moved by Labor Senator Stephen Conroy in the Senate which would enforce a degree of radical transparency on the NBN company.
The amendments were to the Communications Legislation Amendment (Deregulation and Other Measures) Bill 2015, a relatively innocuous piece of minor telecommunications reform which most parties in Federal Parliament support. Conroy successfully amended the bill in the Senate on Monday.
The amendment — available online — stipulates that the NBN company’s board must prepare a report setting out key financial and deployment forecasts for the rollout of the National Broadband Network, for the period beginning 1 July 2015 and ending 30 June 2022.
However, the Government used its power in the House of Representatives early this afternoon to reject the amendments.
Speaking in the House, Minister for Major Projects, Territories and Local Government Paul Fletcher, on behalf of Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, rejected the amendments. Fletcher tabled the below statement, outlining the House of Representatives’ reasons for doing so:
“The amendment proposes to insert a new section 98AA into the National Broadband Network Companies Act 2011 (NBN Companies Act). The proposed section would require the Board of NBN Co, within 60 days, to prepare, provide to the Minister and publish on its website a report setting out NBN Co’s financial and deployment forecasts for the period 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2022. The Minister would be required to table the report in each House of the Parliament within five sitting days of receipt.
The amendment proposed is not related to the matters dealt with by the Communications Legislation Amendment (Deregulation and Other Measures) Bill 2015 (Bill). That Bill as introduced does not seek to amend the NBN Companies Act.
The amendment proposed to the Bill is in fact inconsistent with the underlying purpose of the Bill, being to streamline regulatory processes and reduce the compliance burden faced by the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors.
Accordingly, the House of Representatives does not accept this amendment.”
The Coalition voted against Conroy’s amendments in the House, while Labor, the Greens and a number of the crossbench MPs — including Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan — voted for them.
It is believed that the Communications Legislation Amendment (Deregulation and Other Measures) Bill 2015 will now be returned to the Senate for further consideration. The process is outlined on the Parliament House website here.
The news comes as the Parliament as a whole is also examining other NBN-related legislation.
This afternoon, the Government listed the somewhat controversial Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Access Regime and NBN Companies) for debate on Monday morning in the House of Representatives.
All of this was expected. I guess we’ll see next week what the Senate will do with the House’s refusal to pass Conroy’s NBN transparency reform amendments. I’m expecting fireworks. I’ll be in there watching and live-tweeting proceedings so that you all can follow along second by second, and also ensuring that our political representatives know that people are watching their behaviour on this one.