Coalition stalls NBN Bills debate

Summary:The Federal Opposition has managed to delay consideration of Senate amendments to the government's National Broadband Network (NBN) legislation for nearly three hours today.

The Federal Opposition has managed to delay consideration of Senate amendments to the government's National Broadband Network (NBN) legislation for nearly three hours today.

The lower house has been recalled to vote on the amendments that the upper house made following a marathon debate that ended late on Friday night.

Before MPs had a chance to debate the amendments, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was on his feet seeking to censure the "untrustworthy and incompetent" behaviour of the Gillard government.

He cited the late tabling of dozens of government amendments to the legislation, Labor's handling of riots on Christmas Island and its planned carbon tax.

"As this parliament resumes this morning, isn't there an extraordinary pall over government members," Abbott said, referring to Labor's crushing defeat in the NSW state election on Saturday.

The Coalition move was defeated by one just one vote following 30 minutes of debate.

Shortly after, the house formally received the Senate amendments.

The government sought to have the amendments considered immediately, prompting a drawn-out debate on that question by Coalition MPs.

Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said that the amendments should be not be rushed through parliament.

"How absurd it is for this house to be asked to deliberate on this legislation and finalise this legislation this morning when we have only had the amendments over the weekend," he told parliament.

"There is a whole industry that is confused, appalled troubled by these amendments and they are entitled, as indeed all Australians are, time to consider them carefully."

Opposition manager of business Christopher Pyne said the government was trying to sneak its "technical" changes through parliament.

"It was only then that once they reached the Senate that we discovered the real plan of the government," he said, adding it was "not quite as bad as Pearl Harbour".

"It certainly was a surprise attack on the Senate and on the Opposition."

Turnbull said the NBN was the largest infrastructure project in Australia's history, involving the investment of about $50 billion in taxpayer money.

"This project is going to revolutionise, and not for good, the telecommunications sector in Australia," he said. "It is going to create a massive government-owned monopoly."

While the Opposition remains steadfastly opposed to the legislation, the government's 11th hour amendments removing volume-based discounting for services on the NBN have won over the Competitive Carriers' Coalition (CCC).

"We are comfortable with the tightening of the 'cherry picking' prohibitions and understand that these are needed to support the NBN business case and the notion of regulated monopoly," the CCC said in a statement. "In balancing the benefits to the competitive sector of moving the reform and NBN processes forward versus the risks of delay and a fundamental derailing of reform, it is our view that the Bill ought to be supported."

Topics: Government, Government : AU, NBN, Networking


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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