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Thursday, 18 March 2010 11:31

Greens harden resolve on NBN study


Stephen Conroy's handling of the National Broadband Network legislation was a case study in how not to run open and transparent government, Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam says.

Restating the Greens resolve to vote against the NBN legislation if the Communications Minister doesn't make the KPMG-McKinsey implementation study public, Senator Ludlam lampooned the Rudd Government's early term commitment to openness and transparency.

"They've seen this material coming. They've had an interim study. They're had the material itself since early March," Senator Ludlam told ABC television this morning. "This is not an open or transparent way to run several billion dollars worth of infrastructure project."

"We're not going to be debating the National Broadband Network legislation without this report in the public domain," he said. "We're supportive in principle, but there's a huge amount of taxpayers' money on the table here."

Senator Conroy yesterday defied a Senate Order to table the 500 page document in the Chamber yesterday, saying he was still briefing Cabinet colleagues and considering its recommendations.

The way forward on NBN issues related to KPMG-McKinsey's 80-odd recommendations contained in the report required Cabinet approval, Senator Conroy said, and as a matter of process he was unable to release it until the Cabinet had signed off on it.

Judging from the Minister's appearance on the ABC's Lateline program, the report looks to contain good news for the Government's side of the negotiation with Telstra. Which is probably not good news for Telstra shareholders.

Privately, Senator Conroy is said to be keen to have the report - or large slabs of it at least - made public, as the numbers paint a positive picture of the NBN Company model if it goes it alone without Telstra.

Senator Conroy said the KPMG-McKinsey report was commissioned to look at the building the NBN as an entirely stand-alone company. It was "commissioned on the basis of no deal with any other telecommunications companies. Telstra included."

"So this is a stand-alone document that's not tied to any outcome of negotiations with Telstra," Senator Conroy said.

"Secondly, I think that people will find there are some very surprising and very positive recommendations coming forward. And I think there will be a whole variety of people who will be quite surprised about the information that is in this document if it's released."

Meanwhile, Senator Conroy said his office was still in discussion with the Greens, senators Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding on the telecommunications reform bill that was delayed for debate again this week.

While there was common ground on most of the amendments put forward by the Greens, there remains a stumbling block over the commitment to enshrine the privatisation of the NBN Company in the legislation in the medium term (Government is saying five years.)

The Greens say any privatisation of the NBN Company should be a decision of the parliament - because it is impossible to know the economic, social or even technology environment in the future.

The problem for Senator Conroy - or for the Greens - is that the privatisation of the company was a part of the Cabinet decision, and a part of the decision of the party room, making it somewhat more difficult to unwind in a negotiation.


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