Communications Minister Stephen Conroy today said that he had received the final report from the expert panel recommending bidders or parts of bidders' proposals for the government's $4.7 billion National Broadband Network.
The panel had been deliberating since the 26 November tender deadline. It has considered the bids themselves but also advice from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on the regulatory side of submissions.
"The government is now considering the panel of experts' report," Conroy said, adding that until this point he had not seen the information. The next step, depending on the contents, would be to start negotiations with recommended parties. Conroy has previously expressed a desire to choose the bidder by the end of March, but a spokesperson said that would depend on what was in the report.
Six companies and consortiums had entered bids to build the National Broadband Network: ONI — an Optus led proposal, Telstra, Acacia, Axia, the Tasmanian Government and TransACT. Telstra was later excluded from the process, leaving the other five to be considered.
While the government had received the final report, the NBN process and "associated probity requirements" were still in force, Conroy said, which meant that the contents of the report will not be made public until the process of choosing a bidder was completed. Such disclosure before the end of negotiations with the vendor could prejudice the outcome of the process, Conroy said.
Shadow Communications Minister Nick Minchin has been calling for the ACCC's report to be made public.
The minister thanked the expert panel and the ACCC, which had provided advice to the expert panel, for their hard work. The ACCC only took a few days off over Christmas.