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Wednesday, 25 August 2010 22:46

Gillard offers independent MPs Quigley briefing


Prime Minister Julia Gillard has offered the three independent rural MPs who hold the key to forming the next federal government a detailed briefing from NBN Company chief executive Mike Quigley in response to their "keen interest" in broadband.

In addition to agreeing to a request for a briefing from the Secretary of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy Peter Harris, she also assured the three MPs that Communications Minister Stephen Conroy would be available for consultation at their request.

Ms Gillard wrote to the three rural MP's - New England's Tony Windsor and Lyne's Rob Oakeshott from New South Wales and Bob Katter from Kennedy in far north Queensland - to respond to a formal request for information.

The MPs had written a 'Request for Information' to both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott with a list of seven 'pathways to progress.' Top of the list was a request for access to both Treasury Secretary Ken Henry and Finance Secretary David Tune for briefings on the economy and election promise costings.

The three also wanted briefings from the department heads of eight departments, from Communications, to Health, Education, Infrastructure, Agriculture, Climate Change, Defence and Resources.

They want the Ministers with portfolio responsibility for these departments and their shadow ministers made available.

Ms Gillard said she has sought advice from Prime Minister & Cabinet on whether changes to Caretaker conventions would be required to meet all of the requests, but at face value said she was happy to make the department heads and ministers available.

But with broadband perhaps playing a more significant role in the outcome of this election than would have been expected just a couple of weeks ago, the Prime Minister went further to offer the MPs the briefing from Mr Quigley.

"Further, with respect to your keen interest in Broadband, would you like a briefing from the Chief Executive and Director of NBNCo Mr Mike Quigley?" Ms Gillard wrote to the three MPs. "He would be best placed to provide you with the technical information on aspects of the NBN including the roll-out and other information you may be seeking?"

Ms Gillard said PM&C head Terry Moran was looking into whether the caretaker conventions would be required to be amended. If they are, she said she would seek agreement with the Opposition leader to make those amendments.

"I would be happy to arrange for briefings from the Secretaries of the Departments you have requested," Ms Gillard said in her letter. "However, given the importance of maintaining the caretaker conventions, I would like to clarify aspects of your request."

"In particular, will you be seeking information that would go beyond that which would be normally provided under the caretaker conventions as for your fist request?"

The three rural independents, all of them ex-Nationals, made a series of other requests, including a commitment from both sides that they serve the full three year term, and for a number of changes to Parliamentary procedures.

Ms Gillard gave her commitment to the full term and said she would have a full document outlining Government's proposals for Parliamentary reform.

She said her conversations with Mr Windsor, Mr Oakeshott and Mr Katter had been conducted "in good faith and in the national interest."

"Good faith and acting in the national interest will continue to be my approach. I understand your strong commitment to these principles and I share it," Ms Gillard said.


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