Ludlam 'wins' NBN study round 1

The Senate has ordered the Federal Government to produce a copy of the National Broadband Network implementation study, but the government may still refuse, says Greens Senator Scott Ludlam.

The Senate has ordered the Federal Government to produce a copy of the National Broadband Network implementation study, but the government may still refuse, says Greens Senator Scott Ludlam.

Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam successfully moved a motion in the upper house on Thursday calling on Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to release the report. The coalition backed Senator Ludlam's move.

Conroy now has until 10am on 17 March to do so.

But Ludlam told ZDNet.com.au that the successful motion means the nation was only "halfway there" to getting Conroy to release the study.

"The government opposed that order, so now we have to wait until Wednesday morning, which is when the order requests the government to produce that material," he said. The government could still refuse to hand over the study, he said.

The Senate was powerful enough that it could choose to pursue some severe remedies to get the minister to hand the material over, according to Ludlam, but he added that normally such a situation would lead to a stand-off.

The Senate faced a similar situation when the government was ordered to produce documents relating to the initial fibre-to-the-node NBN proposal, Ludlam said. The government didn't table the expert panel's findings or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's report until well after the date the Senate had intended it to do so.

Ludlam hoped that the Senate wouldn't see a repeat. "We're hoping that government will see that it's essential that the documents are put into the public domain and they probably know that," he said.

The Greens senator didn't think the study had to be released before the Telstra separation Bill was debated, unlike the Opposition which failed in its attempt to delay the Telstra separation Bill yesterday. .

Its broader negotiations with the government on the Telstra-split legislation were still unfinished, said Ludlam.

The Greens' key concern appears to be around the trigger for NBN Co's privatisation, which in the recently released NBN draft legislation outlined that it would be done after a period of five years.

"The last thing we want to see is an automatic privatisation trigger. That's quite wrong-headed," he said. "At the moment, it will be privatised subject to market conditions. It should be subject to a public interest test to work out whether it's a good idea or not."

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