Senate extends life of NBN committee

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Senate extends life of NBN committee

‘Robust’ and ‘ongoing’ oversight approved.

The Senate late today voted to extend the life of a select committee investigating the national broadband network for up to two and a half more years.

Late Wednesday afternoon the Senate counted 37 votes in favour of adding to the time the committee has to release its final report on the Government's reviews of the NBN and the governance of NBN Co, in spite of the efforts of 29 Coalition members who attempted to shut the motion down.

The final report was scheduled to be handed down before June 10 this year. The Senate today agreed to extend the date for its presentation to the last sitting day of the current Parliament.

The motion follows a recommendation made by the Committee as part of its interim report, released in March, that its terms of reference be amended to enable “ongoing and robust Parliamentary oversight” of the NBN. 

“Noting the committee’s findings of the strategic review, and the Government intention for the reviews to feed into the development of NBN Co's corporate plan 2014-17, the committee considers that the reviews and their findings should be subject to continuing and close parliamentary scrutiny,” the majority Committee said in the interim report.

The dominant Labor contingency of the Committee said in the interim report that NBN Co’s “deficient”, “manipulated”, and “inaccurate” strategic review had failed to provide a sufficient basis for the adoption of an alternative deployment path for the rollout - a finding the minority Coalition committee Senators labelled “grossly misleading”.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in his response to the report the Government looked forward to the Committee’s continuing public hearings in order to learn what evidence guided the Labor Senators to their “unsubstantiated and inaccurate findings”. 

A spokesperson for Turnbull today said the move to extend the life of the committee signalled Labor's ongoing efforts to play politics with the NBN. 

Committee chair and Labor Senator Kate Lundy said she was pleased with the result of the Senate motion.

"Senate Committees are integral to an open and transparent government," she said in a statement to iTnews.

"Most Australians still do not know if they will be connected to quality broadband services, with the Government yet to complete its six reviews into the NBN.

"There is always a role for the Parliament to review progress into infrastructure projects of this importance, as well as providing a platform for individuals and organisations to provide feedback directly to government."

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