NBN Committee stalls after rollout data withheld

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NBN Committee stalls after rollout data withheld

To be recalled in three weeks.

The NBN Joint Committee has cut short a public hearing in Canberra this week after it emerged the Federal Government sat on a progress update on the broadband network rollout for almost a month.

With the exception of NSW Labor Senator Doug Cameron, the committee officially registered its disappointment that the data continued to be withheld.

The Government had failed to turn over the same data in time for the committee’s first report, published at the end of August.

Shareholder ministers had pledged to deliver the rollout progress report by “mid-September” but that deadline was also fast slipping.

It emerged at a committee hearing in Canberra this week that NBN Co had handed a draft of the report to the Government on 19 August.

The Department of Broadband’s deputy secretary of infrastructure Daryl Quinlivan said that the finalised report was “very close” to being ready to hand up to the committee.

Quinlivan said the month-long holdup had been caused by an “outstanding issue” of potential discrepancies between materials in a quarterly report and audited financials, which arrived at the department today.

He moved to assure the committee that the department had “no intention” of purposely withholding the progress report to stifle its work.

In the absence of the rollout report, committee chair Rob Oakeshott moved to have hearings wound up more quickly than had been scheduled.

The committee agreed to a proposal to have at least eight members of the Department of Finance and Deregulation and the Department of Broadband relieved of their planned appearances.

Representatives of NBN Co and the department were also recalled to appear at a previously unscheduled public hearing on October 11.

“I don’t think we need to drag out tonight without the performance measurement information,” Oakeshott said.

“Tonight was about performance measurement tools and KPIs. We haven’t got ‘em so we shouldn’t waste time.”

Oakeshott was scathing of the ongoing delays in surfacing rollout data. He received support from opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull, who unsuccessfully sought to adjourn the hearings.

The hearing wrapped up one hour and 15 minutes early.

NBN Co chief Mike Quigley said that the company would publicly release a 12-month rollout schedule within “weeks”.

The network wholesaler had previously told access seekers the rollout schedule would be released before the end of September.

It planned to unveil a three-year rollout plan early next year but Quigley cautioned the latter two years in that plan were “indicative” only and subject to change.

He said that NBN Co had been “inundated” with requests and demands from communities on when they would receive an NBN connection.

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