update The National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) will now be subject to freedom of information (FOI) laws after a successful negotiation between the Greens and the government, Greens Party Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam announced today.
The Greens and the Opposition have been critical of the exemption that allowed NBN Co to be exempt from FOI laws despite being government-owned because it is an incorporated company. Other government-owned entities such as Medicare or Australia Post are not exempt.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has previously defended the rules, stating that the FOI exemption was "ordinary business".
Ludlam said he had successfully negotiated amendments to NBN Co's governance arrangements after raising concerns about the company charged with rolling out the government's $37.5 billion NBN project being exempt from transparency rules.
"The NBN Co should be held to the same standards of transparency as any other government company," Ludlam said in a statement. "We have negotiated with the government and they have agreed NBN Co will be listed as a prescribed authority under the Freedom of Information Act."
Material relating to confidential commercial information would still be exempt from FOI laws, if NBN Co could successfully argue that the information was commercial in confidence.
"Effectively, this means NBN Co will be subject to the same level of transparency as Medibank and Australia Post and also provided the same level of protection for material that is genuinely commercially sensitive," Ludlam said.
In a statement, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's office said the government would support amendments to the Corporations Act to ensure that NBN Co was treated as any other government-owned business and thus subject to FOI laws.
Updated at 12:15pm, 24 February 2011: comment added from Conroy's office.