Greens chalk up win on NBN oversight

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Greens chalk up win on NBN oversight
Greens' Senator Scott Ludlam.

UPDATE: Scope of Joint Parliamentary Committee finalised.

The ALP Government has been forced to make concessions with regards to oversight of the National Broadband Network after a long negotiation with the Greens party.

The Greens claim that the Government has agreed to form a Joint Parliamentary Committee to oversee the roll-out, and as per the Greens’ demands, the ruling party will not enjoy a majority on the panel.

Last night, Leader of the House Anthony Albanese moved that the Parliament form a 16-person oversight committee for the NBN, with seven ALP members or Senators, seven Coalition members or Senators, and two non-aligned or independent members of Senators.

The Committee will be chaired by independent member Rob Oakeshott.

In terms of scope, the Joint Parliamentary Committee will monitor the NBN roll-out and whether it meets Government set objectives around deadlines and take-up rates, network performance and service levels, complaint-handling, NBN Co's risk management, governance and "any other matter pertaining to the NBN rollout that the Committee considers relevant".

The Committee will also have the power to "call for witnesses to attend and for documents to be produced" by NBN Co.

The Committee will deliver a report to both houses of Parliament every six months, the first of which is due 31 August 2011.

In a statement released to the press on Tuesday, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam took credit for negotiating more transparency and governance around the $37 billion project.

"We have spent the summer negotiating broader terms of reference, removing the proposed Government majority on the committee and ensuring that it gets to work right away, rather than waiting until July before getting started," Ludlam said in a press statement.

"The Greens' approach to the NBN is to use the tools of the Parliament to provide ongoing transparency, as a way of building confidence in this important project.

"The committee will give the industry and the broader community a window into the financial and engineering decisions underpinning the National Broadband Network."

Last week, the Greens negotiated amendments to NBN Co's governance arrangements so that the company would be subject to Freedom of Information laws.

The amendments passed the lower house this Tuesday, in what Greens MP Adam Bandt described as "a big win for transparency and openness in the rollout of high-speed broadband in Australia".

The bill was to be examined by the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications, which was due to report on March 16.

John Hilvert contributed to this story.

Updated on March 2 to include information on the freedom of information amendments and comments made in Parliament on Tuesday night.

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