Wednesday, 17 March 2010
National Broadband Network
by leave—I wish to advise the Senate that the National Broadband Network implementation study report that is the subject of a Senate order for the production of documents was received by the government on 5 March 2010. The government is currently considering the implementation study. Accordingly, I am not in a position to comply with the Senate order. The implementation study is a comprehensive document which runs to hundreds of pages. It considers, among other things, the operating arrangements for NBN Co., the ownership and structure of the company and network design issues. Putting the study together required a multidisciplinary approach and an enormous and sustained effort, together with extensive shareholder consultation and input from NBN Co. The study has synthesised this extensive input into a significant number of recommendations to government. It is not uncommon, and in fact it is sensible, responsible and appropriate, for governments to take some time to consider reports they receive before decisions are made about release and the next steps. The government is considering the report carefully before making decisions about the next steps.
I appreciate that crossbench senators are genuinely interested in the implementation study and the rollout of the National Broadband Network. I also welcome the fact that many of them broadly support getting a more competitive market structure in telecommunications for the benefits of consumers and businesses in this country. However, I will take this opportunity to note the hypocrisy of those opposite on this particular issue. The Howard government, on many occasions, failed to release reports or studies they were provided with or did so after a significant period of time. I am advised that between 1 July 2005 and 2007 only one motion for the production of documents in the Senate was agreed to. For them to now criticise the government for lack of transparency and for not releasing the implementation study after having only received it on 5 March, less than two weeks ago, is the height of hypocrisy.
Senator Minchin wants to pretend the past did not happen. He seems to have amnesia. He wants to pretend that he is the bastion of transparency and accountability when in fact his track record suggests the opposite. What is more, Senator Minchin claims that the implementation study needs to be released so that the telecommunications reform bill can be considered properly, yet Senator Minchin and his colleagues have already indicated they will vote against the bill irrespective of the content of the implementation study. It is just a little hypocritical. They say, ‘Release the report so we can consider it and decide,’ yet they have already decided to vote it down.
You continue to be engaged in a filibuster. I noted with interest that in this morning’s papers an unnamed Liberal source was boasting about the filibuster, boasting about the number of speakers that were all going to take their 20 minutes, thus ensuring that this bill would not at any stage get to a vote. Those opposite, drunk on their position and drunk on their ability to frustrate the government in this chamber, have indicated that they are going to continue to filibuster. There in black and white in this morning’s newspapers is an opposition drunk on arrogance, drunk on its ability to frustrate the government’s legislative program in the Senate, boasting that they intend to ensure that this bill will not get to a vote this week.
The National Broadband Network will transform the competitive dynamics of the telecommunications sector in this country. It will drive a new era of productivity and growth in this country. Back in April last year we committed to undertaking a detailed implementation study in order to optimise the development of the NBN policy settings and the rollout. The implementation study team of McKinsey-KPMG has worked closely and in a complementary way with NBN Co. Ltd and its executive chair and CEO, Mr Mike Quigley, who has vast experience in the telecommunications sector. In December last year Mike Quigley noted that the parallel and complementary work streams being undertaken by NBN Co. and the lead adviser were sensible. He said:
... there are significant benefits and synergies from a close cooperation and this is exactly what is happening. NBN Co and the Lead Adviser team of McKinsey/KPMG are working closely together on many issues and I believe the Government was very wise in setting up this dual stream approach at the beginning of a project of this size and complexity.
The government remains committed to ensuring the successful rollout of the NBN policy.