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Libs call for urgent probe into broadband bids

The Liberals has called on the Commonwealth Auditor-General to conduct an immediate investigation into the tender process for the national fibre-to-the-node network, saying the procedure has been dogged by concerns over value for money and transparency.
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Written by Marcus Browne on

The Liberals has called on the Commonwealth Auditor-General to conduct an immediate investigation into the tender process for the national fibre-to-the-node network, saying the procedure has been dogged by concerns over value for money and transparency.

Shadow Communications spokesperson, Bruce Billson, has today appealed to the Commonwealth Auditor-General to launch "an urgent, full and thorough investigation" into the tender proposals process for the network, "in light of serious stakeholder concerns".

Opposition Communications spokesperson, Bruce Billson

Credit: Australian Parliament

According to the Victorian MP, he was "compelled" to involve the Auditor-General after reading the Australian National Audit Office's procurement guidelines, saying in a statement there were a number of worrying features in the network procurement process "that are clearly at odds with the principles of fairness, transparency, probity and value for money".

Billson pointed to problems with the government's 25 July deadline for all proposals, as well as the unavailability of information detailing Australia's existing network infrastructure to bidders other than Telstra.

"The government has commenced this process fully aware that proponents require this information in order to participate in a contestable process with properly designed, interconnected and costed proposals," said Billson in his letter to the Auditor-General.

Today's report comes after Optus CEO Paul O'Sullivan told the ABC on Monday that the telco would withdraw from the tender process if the deadline was not extended, preferably at least five months after the network information is made available to all potential bidders.

The Optus chief also called on the government to commit to a policy of operational separation for Telstra, saying: "Before we put our reputation on the line, before we spend a lot of money preparing a bid we want the assurance from government that it is committed to structural separation."

Speaking at the Sydney Institute yesterday, Federal Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy said the government was committed to a "genuinely" competitive process, despite refusing to extend the deadline.

"We are working to ensure that proponents will have access to relevant network information to assist in the preparation of their bids," he said, before reiterating his openness to the possibility of structurally separating Telstra.

"The government has always recognised that it may need to consider regulatory or legislative changes to facilitate the deployment of the national broadband network," he said.

Oppostion spokesperson Billson hit back: "The Request-For-Proposal is more accurately a Request-For-Policy".

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