Minchin passes motion to block NBN debate

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Minchin passes motion to block NBN debate

Shadow communications minister Nick Minchin gave Senator Conroy until 6:50pm yesterday to make public the NBN Panel of Experts report and an associated report by the ACCC.

Media Release

In a motion put forward in the Senate today, Senator Minchin threatened to refuse to debate any National Broadband Network (NBN) bill until the secret documents are made public.

"The Senate notes that the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy is in contempt of the Senate for his failure to comply with a Senate order of 4 February 2009 for the production of documents relating to the NBN tender process," the motion reads.

Minchin demanded that Senator Conroy release the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's report on the failed NBN tender, and the final report submitted by the NBN Panel of Experts to the Government.

"If the Government continues to refuse to comply with the orders of the Senate for the provision of these documents, consideration of any bill relating to the Government's "new national broadband network" [will] be postponed and be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting after the documents... are laid on the table."

DBCDE has previously refused to release the documents, citing that they contain commercially confidential information pertaining to those telecommunications companies that took part in the tender.

Senator Conroy has levelled Minchin's motion as "grossly irresponsible" and "hypocritical" and said the Government "cannot and will not comply with this irresponsible ultimatum."

Conroy points out that Minchin, as finance minister under the Howard Government, refused to release scoping study or evaluation reports concerning Telstra, Medibank Private or ComLand and the Defence Housing Authority.

Further, a spokesperson for Senator Conroy told iTnews that legally, the Government will not have to comply with Minchin's Senate order due to a small loophole in the terms used in Minchin's original motion.

"Minchin's original motion obliging the publication of the Expert Panel report [of February 4] was amended to require the documents to be tabled 'the day after the winning bid is announced. As
you would be aware, no winning bid was announced," the spokesperson said.

NBN Panel of Experts member Professor Reginald Coutts has previously told iTnews the report varied little from the Government's policy.


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