Turnbull accuses Lundy of 'rolling' Clare on NBN committee

Turnbull accuses Lundy of 'rolling' Clare on NBN committee

Summary: Labor's shadow communications ministers will not be a part of an NBN committee after Labor and the Greens put forward proposal to establish a Senate committee in place of the existing committee.

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Labor's new shadow communications minister Jason Clare and assistant shadow communications minister Michelle Rowland will miss out on participating in a new joint parliamentary committee for the National Broadband Network (NBN) after Labor Senator Kate Lundy put forward a motion with Greens Senator Scott Ludlam motion to establish a committee operating from the Senate alone.

The joint committee for the NBN was established in the last parliament to investigate the rollout and report back to parliament every six months. It was chaired by the now-retired Independent MP Rob Oakeshott and had a number of Coalition and Labor MPs from both houses as its members, including then-shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull.

In Question Time today, Turnbull said he had an agreement in place to re-establish the committee with Clare, and accused a "disappointed" Lundy, who was overlooked for the shadow communications minister role, of "rolling" Clare and creating the Senate committee in its place.

In a statement provided to ZDNet, Clare said that the decision to switch to a Senate committee will take control of the committee away from the Coalition.

"Unlike the strategic review and the joint committee Malcolm Turnbull proposed, we have established a committee that he can't control," Clare said.

Ludlam, who signed the motion establishing the Senate committee along with Lundy, told the Senate this morning that he contacted Turnbull last month seeking to re-establish the joint committee but he received no response.

"[Turnbull] has not re-established the Joint NBN Committee and I do not believe he that he seeks to. That is why this select committee is necessary — to police, to the degree that we can, the shambles that is now being presided over, as anybody with any knowledge of construction of that network is being washed out of the organisation," he said.

"It is absolutely essential for an investment of this scale, given the privatisation mentality that this government seems to be bringing to the debate, that we salvage whatever we can from the wreckage that Mr Turnbull is now presiding over."

Lundy proposed that the 7-member committee made up of three Coalition senators, three Labor senators and a Greens senator will report back to government in June 2014 on the NBN strategic review, the expert advisors of the review, the data provided to the review, and the impact of the review on NBN Co's operational effectiveness.

The move to a Senate-only committee will see both Clare and Rowland excluded from the committee as they are both members of the House of Representatives.

Labor and the Greens will keep the balance of power in the Senate until July 1. The future of the committee is not guaranteed after that date.

Topics: NBN, Government, Government AU

About

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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2 comments
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  • I assume...

    ...that both Labor and the Coalition have communications experts in the Senate who could be appointed to the committee and who will be in communication with their colleagues in the House.

    It's not like people are being deliberately excluded.
    John L. Ries
    • Also...

      ...the House can establish its own committee which can include both the Communications Minister and the Opposition spokesman.

      Admittedly, I'm an American used to a presidential system of government (members of U.S. administrations are actually not allowed to sit in Congress), but one of the aspects of British-style parliamentary government I find to be downright silly is the insistence that cabinet ministers and their prospective replacements be members of the lower house of Parliament (with increasingly rare exceptions). As long as a minister enjoys the confidence of the lower house of Parliament, I fail to see why it matters which house he belongs to, or even if he is an MP at all. The houses can always change the rules so that ministers who are not members can enter the chamber for the purpose of addressing the house or taking questions from members; presumably they can already give testimony to Parliamentary committees just as U.S. cabinet officers give testimony to Congressional ones.
      John L. Ries