Greens: Don't sell or strangle the NBN

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Greens: Don't sell or strangle the NBN

Election cycle impacts on telco debate.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has urged the communications industry not to allow the Government to sell down or "strangle" the national broadband network.

Speaking in Sydney today, Ludlam also renewed his call to the Federal Government to release facts and figures from the $25 million NBN implementation study, although he stopped short of backing the Opposition's repeated calls for a cost-benefit analysis.

"I think [a cost-benefit analysis] might lead us up a false alley," Ludlam said.

"But can we please just see the figures? The Government is sitting on the implementation study and has denied a Senate Order to release it. Apart from occasional leaks, all of us are operating in a vacuum... [and would] appreciate some disclosure and transparency."

Ludlam also called on the industry not to allow the Government to sell off its stake in the national broadband network.

"I appeal to the industry that if we're going to put this colossal investment into NBN Co don't let it off the leash. I think it's an entity we'd want to keep in public hands," he said.

"There's a strong business case for retaining it in public hands and not embedding a divestment trigger in the legislation.

"Nowhere is there a public interest test as to whether [a potential sale of NBN Co] is a good idea. We shouldn't simply automatically sell it down because of some old fashioned notion that the Government shouldn't be involved in providing these types of services."

One reason Ludlam believed NBN Co should stay in public hands was so that it was answerable to Senate Committees.

"At the moment we can get senior people from NBN Co in to explain themselves," he said. "I think we should keep them there."

Ludlam also urged that the NBN not be "strangled" by the Government's much-criticised internet filter.

"We don't need that chokepoint there," he said.

Ludlam lamented the election cycle for clouding the "colour and judgement" expressed in NBN debates. He described Canberra as a "pressure cooker", referring to the amount of telecommunications legislation yet to be passed and debated in the few short sitting weeks remaining.

"It's very difficult to see whether we'll get the net filter legislation, Telstra [separation] and legislation to set up the framework in which the the NBN will operate debated before we rise for the Federal election," Ludlam said.

"The electoral cycle also means people are viewing things not only on their merit but also on their election impact. That's unfortunate because people [in the debate] are losing focus. It's a great shame for the [communications] industry."

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