Conroy to bidders: make the case for intervention

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Conroy to bidders: make the case for intervention

The NBN expert panel will judge whether any of the proposals make a ‘compelling case’ for regulations to prevent network overbuild by Telstra or to require a full switchover of Telstra’s copper to the NBN, Broadband minister Stephen Conroy said yesterday.

Speaking to the ABC’s Inside Business program, Conroy refused to reveal exactly how far the government was prepared to take statutory intervention as part of the NBN process.

However, he said that all proposals are on the table until ruled out by the expert panel – and if they recommended a ‘compelling case’ drafted by one of the prospective bidders, the government will consider it.

“We never said structural separation was included in the RFP. It hasn’t been and Telstra have acknowledged that,” said Conroy.

“We’ll need to see if there’s a compelling case [put forward] from one of the proponents. That’s the test for them.

“If they’re going to put forward a proposition that says ‘This [regulation] is what we require to achieve this’, then we have to give that due consideration.

“But at this point, we did not set out, and we haven’t had, a pre-determined view of the outcome,” said Conroy.

He also dismissed threats of legal action by some bidders if they did not get their ideal regulatory framework that they wanted to operate an NBN in.

“There’s been [the] threat of legal action hanging over this process since before we issued the RFP,” Conroy told the ABC program.

“All sorts of suggestions about who’ll take legal action against who. Now, it is par for this sector. So at every stage the first threat than anybody makes in this sector is, ‘Hey, we’re taking you to court’.

“The government is not going to be swayed by any of this behaviour,” said Conroy.

In what was an at times difficult interview, Conroy was twice forced to deflect speculation – firstly on what would happen if ‘none of the proposals are worthwhile’, and then on when people will actually be able to use the NBN.

On the latter, Conroy avoided suggestions of a 2014 or 2015 timeframe, saying: “We hope to be signing a contract sometimes towards the end of March, but that will depend to a degree on the recommendations that come forward.

“We would then want to start the build, obviously, as fast as we can.”

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