Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy has released two key documents related to the first National Broadband Network (NBN) process, which may clear the way for the Senate to debate the three key NBN Bills.
The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission's and the NBN expert panel's documents, which outlined the government's rationale for ditching the first National Broadband Network proposal were tabled this morning by Conroy in parliament.
The Coalition in May had moved a motion in Senate which prevented further debate on three key pieces of NBN legislation unless the documents were made available. Conroy had repeatedly denied access to the documents on the grounds that they contained commercially sensitive information.
Shadow Communications Minister Nick Minchin had also lodged a freedom of information request in an attempt to access the documents; however, it was knocked back unless Minchin was willing to foot the $24,000 cost of producing the documents. Though the documents tabled by Conroy do not include a "short secret letter" supposedly given to the government from the NBN expert panel.
Legislation that was blocked as a result of the "no further debate" motion by the Coalition included the Bill which prevents Telstra from future spectrum auctions unless it divests its stake in Foxtel. Another Bill caught in the stalled process included the NBN network access information, which would require energy, rail and other utilities to hand over detailed network information to the NBN Company.
In a statement released today, Minchin called Conroy's release of the documents a "feeble and unsatisfactory" attempt to comply with a Senate Order.
"Senator Conroy has previously arrogantly dismissed the Senate Order, but his inadequate attempts today to fulfil it, confirm that he is concerned by the widely held view that the government's handling of NBN policy has been sadly lacking in openness and transparency," Senator Minchin said. "The fact it is has taken him more than five months to table anything highlights the contempt with which he has treated the Senate."
"This minister wasted 18 months and $20 million running his fatally flawed NBN Mark I tender process. To this day he has not been able to provide any evidence to prove his $43 billion NBN Mark II proposal was not just a thought bubble designed to mask the embarrassment of Labor's broken election promise," Minchin said.