Telstra split bill passes lower house

By Ry Crozier on Nov 17, 2010 9:17 AM
Filed under Communications

Conroy pressured to reveal NBN Co business plan.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy was under renewed pressure from key independents today to release the 400-page NBN Co business plan after winning enough support to pass the Telstra split bill through the Lower House overnight.

The passing of the bill - which would see Telstra split its wholesale and retail businesses and a regulatory framework for the NBN introduced - was achieved after the Coalition failed to have any of its proposed amendments approved, according to reports on ABC Lateline and newswire AAP.

The legislation was now due to be debated in the Senate.

The Government had hoped its bill would pass the Senate before changes to the Senate's make-up came into effect in July next year.

Independent Rob Oakeshott lamented in the debate over the bill last night that the lack of business plan for NBN Co had made his job "particularly difficult".

"What I would have loved to have at my disposal right here, right now, is a business case from NBN Co," he said.

"I think it's unfortunate that we're having this debate trying to make decisions on legislation, yet deep in the bowels of Government [the business case] remains unavailable to us as legislators.

"If we're going to make decisions, we need to be given the opportunity to make those decisions on merit. And on the issue of competition, it was particularly difficult to make a decision without that business case at our disposal.

"I take this opportunity to call for the Government to expedite the [release of the] plan."

Fellow independent Tony Windsor backed those calls on ABC Lateline.

"I'm hopeful that the business plan will actually be out before the deliberations go through the Senate," Windsor told the program.

"I think everybody'd like to see it. I'm told there's some very good results in it, so I'd be hopeful that that document would be available.

"I'm told that it's a live document now, that it hasn't gone through the Cabinet. And I think it would be appropriate if the people in the Parliament - they're the ones who paid for it - would actually have a look at it."

Windsor signalled expectations of the NBN Co business plan being released next week.

It came after Greens Senator Scott Ludlam indicated yesterday that the party would attempt to force Conroy to release the NBN Co's business plan, as well as the Government's response to the $25m NBN implementation study before the Senate voted on the Telstra split bill.

"There's a mechanism in the Senate called an order for production of documents, which is where the Senate resolves to get a Minister to hand over a piece of information to put in the public domain," he said.

"We'll be moving that instrument to make sure that the business case and also the Government's response to the earlier implementation study. We've never actually seen a formal Government response to whether they agree with the figures and the dollars that are in there.

"We'll be demanding that the Minister table both of those documents before the end of this week."

The Leader of the House of Representatives, Anthony Albanese, said that the Government was "currently considering the document and will make a range of information available from it in due course".

The Coalition did win the support of Oakeshott for one set of its proposed amendments, which proposed the restoration of merit reviews of ACCC part XIC [access declaration] decisions and reinstating "the ACCC’s procedural fairness obligations when issuing a competition notice under part XIB [of the Trade Practices Act]."

Opposition Communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull had led those amendments hoping that a new model for declared services would not unduly favour access seekers over Telstra.

That won Oakeshott's support but, according to an AAP report, was still defeated on numbers.

 
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