Coalition seeks to break Conroy's NBN committee dominance

Coalition seeks to break Conroy's NBN committee dominance

Summary: The Australian government wants a less Conrovian NBN committee with Coalition senators voting against extending the Senate Select Committee's life to the end of the first term of the Abbott government.


Coalition Senators unsuccessfully sought to block extending the time for the Senate Select Committee for the National Broadband Network (NBN) to report back to Parliament, in a move aimed at bringing MPs from the House of Representatives back into the hearing room, and break former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's dominance over the committee.

The Senate Select Committee was established last year following the election of the Coalition government to replace the Joint Parliamentary Committee that had been led by former Independent MP Rob Oakeshott. There are three Labor senators, three Coalition senators, and one Greens senator on the committee, meaning the government is in the minority on the committee.

At the time, the government claimed that Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare had been "rolled" by committee chair Kate Lundy and Conroy in setting up the committee, but Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam said at the time that at no time did Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull seek to re-establish the joint committee.

In its short life span, the committee has held eight hearings, with NBN Co executives and chairman Ziggy Switkowski hauled before the committee to face a grilling from Conroy on the changes to the project since the election of the new government.

The executives have complained that appearing at the committee has taken a significant amount of time away from running the company.

In its interim report, the Labor-Greens majority recommended that NBN Co completely redo its strategic review amid claims that the review had "lowballed" its June premises passed target, and had failed to take into account a number of cost savings NBN Co had developed prior to the election to bring down the cost of rolling out fibre-to-the-premises.

In the Coalition minority response, and the official response from Turnbull, the majority report was labelled "grossly misleading" and "self-serving", aimed at protecting Conroy's legacy. Despite the strong criticism Turnbull indicated that the government "looks forward to continuing the public hearings" of the committee.

However, yesterday when Lundy moved to extend the life of the committee for the remainder of the first term of the Coalition government, Coalition senators voted against it. The motion was upheld, however, with 37 senators voting for the extension, and 29 voting against it.

A spokesperson for Turnbull said that when the new Senate begins sitting in July, the government may seek to re-establish the joint parliamentary committee that would include both House of Representative MPs and senators. It is unclear what the make up of the committee would be, but the move would be aimed at bringing Clare and fellow Labor communications spokesperson Michelle Rowland into the committee, and reducing Conroy's influence.

As ministers, neither Turnbull or Parliamentary Secretary for Communications Paul Fletcher would be on the committee if it was re-established.

A spokesperson for Lundy's office had been approached for comment.

Topics: NBN, Government, Government AU, Australia


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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  • Hypocrisy

    Of course the Liberal Senators actions were in direct contradiction to M Turnbull's claims of, and promises to, seek and enact greater transparency and openness.

    Turnbull is happy to allow political ideology to transcend economic efficiency and public good.

    His Multi Technology Mess is a fail from the outset.
  • We'll see what happens when the new Senators take their seats

    The Coalition still won't have a majority, but neither will the Labor/Green coalition that's been backing the committee. It's unclear to me what the attitude of the minor party Senators who will hold the balance of power will be.
    John L. Ries
  • A hodge Podge of systems

    We will see what happens after the federal government changes back to Labor in July when the double dissolution is forced upon the LNP. I'd rather see the NBN installed to a recognised standard than become a hodge podge of systems that don't perform to the optimum.
    • A bit premature, isn't it?

      Has there been any indication that the incoming Senate majority is committed to forcing a new election?
      John L. Ries
      • If they don't

        Australia is in trouble both as a Nation and a Decent society and an economy.
        Stuck with an expensive second rate Broadband infrastructure.
        Bear in mind our universal Health Care costs our economy 12% of GDP
        The US Model they are taking is to is inequitable and cruel , yet the direct cost to their economy is 17% of GDP (The more accurate means of evaluation rather than scary big figures, why the liars avoid using it). + The indirect cost of several more % points of GDP.

        Economic genius
        Abel Adamski
  • Quick shut him up!

    Of course they would want to do this because Conroy is exposing to the rest of Australia what Turdbull is so desperate to hide.