The Federal Government has agreed to release a 50-page summary of the NBN Co business case following lengthy negotiations with Independent Senator Nick Xenophon over the telecommunications industry reform legislation.
In a press conference earlier this afternoon, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy announced the immediate release of the document (PDF) after concluding negotiations with Xenophon. Xenophon had not agreed to vote in favour of the telco reform legislation currently being debated in the senate because the government hadn't released the 400-page business case document for NBN Co that it received earlier this month.
Both Gillard and Conroy had maintained that the document could not be released in full because it contained confidential commercial information. Xenophon also rejected private briefings on the business case from NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley because the government had demanded confidentiality on that meeting.
The document released today, Gillard said, expands on the letter sent by Quigley over the weekend. She said the document reveals that the total cost of the network is expected to reach $35.7 billion, not the $43 billion originally projected by the government.
The prime minister said the reduced cost was due to NBN Co's $11 billion Heads of Agreement with Telstra to decommission its copper network and lease its ducts to NBN Co. Gillard said the document also contains information about the timeline for product release, and makes assumptions about points of interconnect decisions yet to be made by cabinet in proving that the project is financially viable.
Gillard said there were no commercial confidentiality concerns in the material being released today.
"The material being released will not cause any market uncertainty and it doesn't relate to matters under cabinet consideration," she said.
The telco reform legislation passed its second reading in the senate today before a number of amendments were proposed on the Bill. The third reading and a final vote on the Bill is now expected to occur before the end of tomorrow, the last parliamentary sitting day for 2010. Gillard admitted she expected that reform of the telecommunications industry wouldn't be easy.
"Major economic reform is never an easy decision," Gillard said at the conference. "Structural separation isn't easy reform but it is the right reform."
Stay tuned for further content on what's in the business case summary.