The joint committee investigating the roll-out of the Federal Government's National Broadband Network (NBN) project was forced to cut off a hearing early last night, after NBN Co failed to deliver a progress report to the committee on time.
The Department of Broadband's deputy secretary of infrastructure, Daryl Quinlivan, told the committee that the company was unable to provide details of its progress against key performance indicators, saying that a report has not been finalised, but was "very close".
The committee's chairman, independent MP Rob Oakeshott, said that the committee would officially record its disappointment that the deadline was slipping away, although Labor Senator Doug Cameron distanced himself from the statement.
"It's unhelpful by not providing that information tonight. And if we can get that information as a committee as soon as possible, as close to mid-September as agreed, that would be helpful, at the least," Oakeshott said.
Quigley said that the company will make its report available to the government first, which will then pass it on to the committee.
Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull later questioned the chief executive as to why NBN Co was seeking permission from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to be able to raise prices on most NBN packages if necessary, with the maximum increase to be equal to the consumer price index plus 5 per cent.
Quigley responded by saying that Turnbull's line of questioning was "too simplistic a view of the complex process the ACCC and ourselves are going through".
"To say that we can set whatever prices we like is simply not factual."
Turnbull said that Quigley was not answering the question.
"You are treating this committee with contempt," he said.
Quigley denied that he was being contemptuous.
Senator Cameron intervened by telling Turnbull that he was making "a ham-fisted job" of questioning Quigley, and to stop attacking him.
"You cannot just make assertions against Mr Quigley," Cameron interjected.
Turnbull compared NBN Co's plans to that of the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) roll-out in New Zealand, pointing out that the NZ plans were scheduled to decrease in price over time.
Quigley said that the NBN plans were also expected to go down in cost over time, and pointed out that the base plan for the Australian NBN cost $24 per month, lower than $38 per month, as was the lowest plan price in New Zealand.
The NBN would have a faster return on investment if NBN Co sets its prices higher, Quigley noted.
"The business case would be much simpler for us if we set it at $38," he said.
The committee agreed to cut short the public hearing, and to meet again with representatives of NBN Co and the department on 11 October.