Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has attacked Opposition senators over their criticism of the $11 billion Telstra-NBN Co agreement announced on Sunday.
In question time today, Conroy singled out West Australian Liberal senator Mathias Cormann over comments he made labeling the financial heads of agreement firstly as a "so-called deal" and subsequently that it did not exist.
"There is no deal," Cormann alleged, after Conroy reiterated guidance from Telstra that further work was needed before a definitive agreement could be reached.
"Yesterday in this place Senator Cormann claimed this wasn't a real agreement," Conroy told the Senate today.
"This is an outrageous claim without basis for credibility.
"The Government, Telstra and NBN Co made it abundantly clear this was a financial head of agreement."
Cormann later told parliament he had been "misunderstood or misquoted" by Conroy.
Conroy paraphrased quotes from Telstra chief executive David Thodey and iiNet chief Michael Malone he believed supported the Government's position on the status of the agreement.
He then attacked the Coalition over their continued opposition to the National Broadband Network.
"The Rudd Government has a clear plan for Australia's broadband future that now has widespread support across the industry," Conroy said.
"On the other hand, the Opposition said they will shut down the NBN.
"The Opposition's continued failure to understand broadband would wreak havoc with Australia's economic future."
Conroy also faced repeated challenges by South Australian Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham to quantify how much faster and more cheaply the NBN could be rolled out using Telstra's passive infrastructure, and how much greater a portion of the NBN could be deployed underground as a result of the agreement.
Conroy's responses on both occasions failed to appease the Opposition, who unsuccessfully sought orders from the Senate President John Hogg on how to answer the question.
"If there's any extra information, I will seek that from NBN Co and get back to you," Conroy said.