Communications Minister Stephen Conroy yesterday appeared to put a deadline of the end of June on the government's negotiations with Telstra on the terms under which it would move its customers and/or infrastructure into the National Broadband Network Company.
The trio have been locked in negotiations since late 2009, with all parties concerned repeatedly stressing the complex nature of the talks. Conroy fielded the question yesterday minutes after he released the NBN implementation study which lays out the future of the network — including the possibility of it being built without Telstra's help.
"I wouldn't imagine we could keep talking through to the end of the year, I wouldn't imagine we could keep talking through to the end of June, at some point you've got to make a decision — either you're going to get there, or you're not. You shake hands and you walk away, if you can't," said Conroy.
"We — as I said — are in lengthy and very complex negotiations with Telstra. They're ongoing. If both parties felt there was no point in those discussions continuing, we would terminate them." The minister said it was clear the trio had not reached an agreement, and therefore the discussions were ongoing.
"But at this stage, the complexities are still enormous, but the constructive dialogue which has been going on over the past four or five months now continues," he said.
Telstra's most recent comment on the negotiations came on 14 April, when it denied rumours that the NBN negotiations were about to reach a conclusion.
"This rumour is unfounded," the telco said "As we have previously advised the market in our ASX announcement of 19 March , negotiations are continuing in relation to NBN. These negotiations remain incomplete and confidential."
In the implementation study released yesterday, the authors — consulting firms McKinsey and KPMG — noted that striking an agreement with Telstra would only make commercial sense for the NBN if "it reduces NBN Co's total cost to build relative to not using Telstra's infrastructure".