Minchin probes Henry's NBN advice

Minchin probes Henry's NBN advice

Summary: Shadow Communications Minister Nick Minchin has demanded the government prove that Treasury Secretary Dr Ken Henry advised it to go ahead with the $43 billion National Broadband Network project.

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Shadow Communications Minister Nick Minchin has demanded the government prove that Treasury Secretary Dr Ken Henry advised it to go ahead with the $43 billion National Broadband Network project.

It seems very hard to believe that the likes of Dr Henry would advise the government to proceed with a high-risk $43 billion project.

Nick Minchin

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy have said that they were acting on advice from the expert panel, of which Henry was a member, when it made its decision to roll out fibre-to-the-home.

"It seems very hard to believe that the likes of Dr Henry would advise the government to proceed with a high-risk $43 billion project, funded by billions of dollars of debt, without any evidence that the venture will be commercially viable," Minchin said in a statement.

"Despite the claims of Senator Conroy and Mr Rudd, there is nothing in the public domain that confirms this is in fact the advice the expert panel provided. If such advice exists, taxpayers have every right to see it, considering they will carry the bulk of the risk," he said.

Minchin reminded Conroy of his obligation to release the expert panel's advice and that of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) as the Senate had ordered in February.

Although an extract of the expert panel's advice has been released, the full document has been withheld. None of the ACCC's report has been aired. Conroy has said that the documents contained commercial-in-confidence information.

Yet Minchin believed Conroy would only withhold the documents if he had something to hide.

With a Senate Estimates session coming up after the budget is released in May, Minchin will have the opportunity to probe Conroy and Henry on the advice. Neither Conroy nor Henry were able to comment at the time of publication.

Henry is no stranger to intense questioning at Senate Estimates, having faced Liberal senators grilling him over the bank deposit guarantee, even questioning him about his integrity. The Liberals had been trying to ascertain the truth behind reports which had said that Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens had not been comfortable with the unlimited bank guarantee. Henry strongly denied the reports.

Topics: NBN, Broadband, Government AU

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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7 comments
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  • Minchin probes Henry's NBN advice

    Minchin is a whiny, irrelevant little pimple on the backside of the Government. I have yet to hear anything constructive from this idiot. He attacks everything Labour does just for the sake of saying something. At the same time he ignores the fact that John Howard created the dogs breakfast we call our communications industry. Howard created the Telstra monopoly monster for the sake of a quick buck, completely disregarding the consequences to the Australian people and the Australian economy and Australian business development. Had he still been around to see his NBN proposal to fruition we would have just seen Telstra retaining their monopoly and building the new NBN resulting in our country being in an even more parlous position than we are in now.
    anonymous
  • You need history lessons

    Tuff - It was Kim Beasley that started the privatisation ball rolling by not initially splitting Telecom into retail and wholesale. John Howard was at the very end of the line.
    anonymous
  • Re : Minchin probes Henry's NBN advice

    Tuff - If the government is going to spend 43 billion dollars leading me to pay higher tax's and possibly leading to cuts in other services. I would like to know what advice they had, and how they are justifying it.

    A little transparency and honesty is all I ask for.
    anonymous
  • Transparency from Conroy and Labor? you're kidding right?

    People are expecting the Federal Government, the same group that feel a secret blacklist is the best way to "Protect the children", will offer transparency?

    It's not going to happen.

    I can't wait til people find out, after signing up to use the 100mbps connections, that they've also agree to subscribe to the blacklist - no reading about abortion, or euthanasia or QLD dentists.
    anonymous
  • Double Dissolution

    Looks like a great trigger opportunity. I think there are already about 15,000,000 dissolutioned people in this country right now.
    anonymous
  • Here is YOUR history lesson Steve

    http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/online/TelstraSale.htm

    It was the Howard government with jokes like Alston as Comms ministers that stuffed things up by still allowing Telstra to be vertically integrated.
    anonymous
  • The facts

    Craig, the coalition and their easily led supporters aren't interested in facts!
    anonymous