Greens win NBN Co FOI review

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Greens win NBN Co FOI review

To occur within a year.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has won a Government review of the way the Freedom of Information Act relates to NBN Co documents.

Ludlam's proposed amendment to the NBN Companies Bill passed with support from the Government, opposition and key independents.

The review would take place within a year of the Companies Bill being passed into law. It passed the Senate today.

Senator Simon Birmingham said the Opposition welcomed the amendments "insofar as they go".

He said the review represented a "concession" on the original FOI deal struck between the Government and Greens last month

"I think this is a halfway house, but at least a halfway house is better than no house at all," Birmingham said.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon sought clarity from Ludlam and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy on what would be covered in the review.

"I don't think its unreasonable to seek some minimum standards for the review," Xenophon said.

"It is a fundamental issue of how this FOI review will be carried out."

In particular, Xenophon sought an assurance that the review would examine the issue of detriment raised in a High Court case between the Commonwealth and Fairfax.

The idea was to tighten FOI rules to prevent documents being withheld on the basis of "confidentiality" unless it was proven their release would be a "real detriment" to the Government or to NBN Co's commercial operations.

Xenophon's calls were backed by Senator Ludlam.

"The issue of detriment should absolutely be part of [the review]," Ludlam said.

"We certainly won't preclude the review from examining any questions.

"The idea that the public interest takes a back seat to commercial interests has crept into public discourse over time. [It's] a concern."

Conroy welcomed Xenophon's input into the review process.

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