Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has ultimately reserved his position on the Telstra split bill, supporting the separation of Telstra but holding out on a 'yes' vote until the release of the NBN Co business plan.
Fronting the debate on the second reading of the Telstra split bill in the Senate, Xenophon said he would allow the bill to progress through its second reading but would reserve his position "to the committee stage and third reading."
He spoke in favour of the structural separation of Telstra, which he said was "in the interests of consumers and competition" in the telecommunications sector.
"This is a critical piece of legislation and, in some regards, it's been a long time coming," Xenophon said.
Xenophon said that he preferred structural separation, describing the alternative - functional separation - as a "poor second cousin [that] fell well short".
"It's time we made Telstra accountable to all Australian consumers, not just its shareholders," Xenophon said.
But he said that he "needed to know much more" before he considered passing "such a significant piece of legislation".
"I approach every piece of legislation in parliament in the same way - I gather all the information together and only then do I make a decision," Xenophon said.
"It's a sad fact I can't do that in this case because a crucial piece [of evidence - the NBN Co business plan] is being withheld from the public.
"I need to be able to explain to my constituents the reasons upon which I make such an important decision. It would be irresponsible [to vote while] staying ignorant of the contents of that document."
Xenophon said there were "gaps in the regulatory framework" proposed in the bill. He said he would bring amendments but did not detail what he was seeking.
He told Radio 3AW that he would continue a dialogue with Prime Minister Julia Gillard after meetings yesterday.