Govt fails to win votes for NBN committee restructure

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Govt fails to win votes for NBN committee restructure

Delays motion until next sitting session.

Australia's Coalition Government has been forced to put off a planned restructure of the Senate Select Committee investigating the national broadband network after failing to convince cross benchers to vote for the motion.

Liberal senator Cory Bernardi yesterday attempted to move a motion to disband the current committee in favour of a majority Liberal panel.

The motion proposed it be replaced by a Joint Senate Select Committee in order to break up the existing Labor-Green majority in favour of a make-up more aligned to the current Coalition-led Senate.

The Government was relying on the support of the Palmer United Party to pass in the motion - which had previously signalled its intention to vote the move in.

But iTnews understands PUP members balked at the last minute, forcing Bernardi to pull his motion.

Despite initial plans to re-introduce the motion a day later, iTnews understands the Government is not confident it will be able to gain PUP's support by Thursday, the last day of Winter sitting.

The motion is now expected to be re-introduced in the Senate's Spring sitting, which commences in the last week of August.

The current committee was established under the former Labor Government and counts three Labor senators - chair Kate Lundy, former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, and Tasmanian senator Catryna Bilyk - one Green senator, Scott Ludlam, and three Liberal senators - Bernardi, SA MP Anne Ruston, and WA senator Dean Smith, as members.

The new committee would be expected to hold five Government members, three Opposition members and an independent.

Current chair Kate Lundy called the Government's move to abolish the existing committee a "political exercise" that would prevent the "robust and independent scrutiny" the existing Opposition majority committee had provided to the NBN.

Senator Bernardi told iTnews having members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate involved in examining the NBN would be in the best interest of the Parliament.

His colleague, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, said it would restore an "orderly supervision of the NBN" and allow Labor’s shadow minister Jason Clare to be involved in scrutiny of the project.

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