The National Broadband Network Transparency Bill put forward by Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been defeated in the House of Representatives this morning.
Turnbull's Bill would have required the Productivity Commission to subject the $43 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) project to a rigorous cost-benefit analysis.
Following a division in the House this morning, the Bill was narrowly defeated 73 votes to 72.
"The task of this Parliament should be to determine the most cost-effective way of delivering [internet] that will provide competition and the lowest access prices for consumers," Turnbull said on the second reading today.
Independent MPs Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Andrew Wilkie as well as Greens MP Adam Bandt sided with the government to defeat the Bill. However Independent MP Rob Oakeshott voted in favour of it, after yesterday calling for the government to release the NBN Co business plan.
The Senate last night passed an order requiring the government to release the business plan immediately, however Prime Minister Julia Gillard defied that order, saying the plan would be released in December.
Turnbull said the Bill would also require the government to produce the NBN business case "tomorrow" if it had passed.
"The business plan is there, we know it's there. The Prime Minister does not want to be questioned on the business plan in this place."
Outside Parliament this morning, Turnbull said there was a reason why the government was waiting until December to release the documents.
"I think we all know, when we finally do see something, if we ever do, it will be over the summer break, hopefully when not too much attention [is] being paid to matters political and it will be heavily edited," he said. "The one thing [Communications Minister] Stephen Conroy doesn't want to do is face any real scrutiny."
The delay of the release of the business plan has also raised concern with Independent MP Tony Windsor and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon.
"Look, to put it pretty inelegantly, the government is doing a pretty good job pissing off the people that are supporters of the NBN and I would have thought the government could do a lot better than this," Xenophon told the ABC's PM program last night. "I agree with some of my colleagues that the government is burning off a lot of good will with the way they're carrying on."
The Senate this morning also agreed to a motion from Liberal senator Mary-Jo Fisher which asks Conroy to produce the full uncensored text of the Red Book advice provided to the incoming government about the NBN, the criteria with which the first sites for the NBN roll-out were chosen as well as the agreed set of enterprise bargaining principles agreed to by the Australian Council of Trade Unions surrounding work on the NBN.
Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield also has a motion to be introduced regarding a cost-benefit analysis for the NBN, however it has yet to be discussed in the Senate.
ZDNet Australia contacted the offices of Conroy and Turnbull for comment but no response had been provided at the time of writing.