update The Federal Government today confirmed that it would not release the full National Broadband Network expert panel or Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recommendations as an opposition Senate motion had appeared to require.
In February, Shadow Communications Minister Nick Minchin submitted a motion to the Senate which would have had that report and the regulatory report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released the next day. A compromise led to the motion being amended today that the documents would be tabled "the day after the winning bid is announced".
"The remainder of the expert panel's report contains confidential commercial information so will not be released," a spokesperson for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told ZDNet.com.au this morning. "The ACCC report also contains confidential information. The minister will be asking the department whether or not there may be aspects of the report suitable for release."
Although a summary of the expert panel's decision was released yesterday, which sketches the panel's general reasoning for turning down the bidders — the problem of paying compensation to Telstra for the use of its copper, the current financial conditions and that "none of the national proposals was sufficiently well developed to present a value for money outcome" — the full report backing these statements has not yet been tabled.
Speculation is rife in the telecommunications industry that the wording of the Senate motion could present the government with a loophole not to release the full documents at all, since no winning bidder has in fact been announced. Instead, the government turned down all bids, announcing it would itself form a corporation to roll out fibre to 90 per cent of Australian homes and businesses.
The reports, which had been written over a number of weeks at the end of last year, had been kept private because of commercial sensitivities.
"The panel can see a way forward to achieve the outcomes sought by the government and has provided that advice in confidence to the government because of the commercial sensitivities arising," the extract released yesterday said.
The Department for Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy has already rebuffed one Freedom of Information request to obtain the documents on the grounds that it was not in the public interest for the documents to be released.