Telstra breakup bill debate resumes

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Telstra breakup bill debate resumes

Conroy wins crossbenchers over.

A Senate order canning debate on Communication Minister Stephen Conroy's bill to break up Telstra and give the competition watchdog stronger powers has been overturned.

The order - initiated by the Opposition - prevented debate of any NBN-related bill until Conroy tabled his NBN expert panel report and accompanying ACCC report.

Parts of both were tabled in parliament earlier in the week, resulting in the inadvertent leak of Telstra's network value.

The vote to resume debate on the bill was tight with 30 votes in the positive and 29 in the negative. The Senate order will remain in place for any other NBN-related bills.

Conroy won support of all crossbench Senators including Steve Fielding and Nick Xenophon in the vote.

A spokesman for Xenophon told iTnews the Senator was now happy for the bill to be debated because an inquiry was underway as to the direction of the NBN.

"Nick had some concerns previously about claims of commercial in confidence when it came to the tender documents relating to the NBN," the spokesman said.

"The Government subsequently agreed to an inquiry into the use of commercial in confidence by government. And on that basis - with that inquiry agreed to and the reporting back in the first sitting week of next year - Nick was happy to vote for the debate to continue".

Senator Fielding told iTnews this afternoon that he was preparing to meet with stakeholders to discuss how he should vote on the bill when the Government brought it back into the Senate.

"Obviously I've been going backwards and forwards between the major players which is obviously the Government, the Minister and also through Telstra," Fielding said.

"Those conversations have been progressing well given that the bill won't come in for debate for a couple of weeks and it gives me some time to see a few of the other players and other people's perspectives on it".

But he would not reveal how he would vote when it came to debating the bill.

"I've got one vote. A very important vote. But we'll have to wait and see how that unfolds. I do want to make sure that I use that other couple of weeks just to make sure that I've got the various views and to make sure that is a very well considered decision," Fielding said.

Opposition Communications Minister Nick Minchin said he was "disappointed" the bill had been exempted from the Senate order.

A spokesman for Senator Conroy earlier this week said the government remained "committed to passing these vital reforms this year".

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