NBN transparency measure kyboshed by government

House of Reps votes against Senate amendment to telco legislation

The House of Representatives has knocked back a Senate amendment to telecommunications legislation that would have forced NBN to reveal a range of financial and rollout data.

The amendment would have compelled the government-owned company to release a report covering the period 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2022 that includes annual forecast and actual number of premises ready for service and activated for each technology used by the network, and a range of financial data such as total revenue, total operating expenditure, government funding, and debt funding.

The amendment to the Communications Legislation Amendment (Deregulation and Other Measures) Bill 2015 was successfully moved in the Senate by Labor Senator Stephen Conroy and backed by the Greens.

“The amendment proposed is not related to the matters dealt with by the Communications Legislation
Amendment (Deregulation and Other Measures) Bill 2015
,” major projects minister Paul Fletcher said yesterday arguing for the lower house to reject the amendment.

“That bill, as introduced, does not seek to amend the NBN Companies Act. The amendment proposed to the bill in fact is inconsistent with the underlying purpose of the Communications Legislation Amendment (Deregulation and Other Measures) Bill 2015, that underlying purpose being to streamline regulatory processes and to reduce the compliance burden faced by the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors.”

“I have to ask the question: What does this government have to hide?” opposition broadband spokesperson Jason Clare said in response.

“Seriously — what does the government have to hide? What is it worried about here that it is willing to take this bill back to the House in trying to remove these provisions from the bill? Just so that honourable members understand what we are talking about here: What the government is trying to do right now is to amend legislation so that NBN Co does not have to release information that it used to release — basic, simple information, like total capex, total opex, total revenue and the amount of interest that NBN Co will pay.

“All of this is information that NBN Co used to release in corporate plans when we were in government. So this
argument that the government is now using, that this is somehow commercial-in-confidence information, is arrant nonsense.

“It is arrant nonsense by a desperate government, willing to do whatever it takes to try to hide information about the mess they have made of the NBN. It is evidence, again, of the hypocrisy of this Prime Minister, because when he was the shadow minister for communications he would come into this chamber on a regular basis and scold us about the lack of transparency with the NBN.”

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