Tuesday, 1 March 2011
National Broadband Network Companies Bill 2010
Consideration in Detail
The government do not support this amendment moved by the member for Wentworth. This amendment makes NBN Co. subject without express exception to the FOI Act. The government are committed to transparency and scrutiny of our NBN policy, so we have agreed to have NBN Co. subject to the FOI Act with appropriate protection for its commercial activities. I indicate to the House that the government will be opposing the amendment moved by the member for Wentworth but we will be supporting the amendment to be moved by the member for Melbourne.
I indicate to the House that it might be convenient for members of the House for the amendment moved by the member for Melbourne to be considered immediately after this amendment is dealt with, given that, it is my understanding, the opposition will not seek to divide on the remaining amendments moved by the member for Wentworth and, I would assume, will support the third reading of the act.
The government has agreed to support amendments being moved by the member for Melbourne to subject NBN Co. to the FOI Act with the same exemptions that apply to other government business enterprises like Australia Post. This is just a common-sense provision, one that maximises transparency whilst ensuring that we protect the confidentiality of NBN Co.’s commercial activities. It is worth pointing out that NBN Co. is not covered by the FOI Act because the act does not apply to Corporations Act companies—which NBN Co. is—which are not prescribed authorities. Prescribed authorities are entities which are by default covered by the FOI Act. So, contrary to some coverage of this issue, no decision was made by the government to exempt NBN Co. It is exempt simply because of its identity as a Corporations Act company. The government opposes the amendment of the member for Wentworth because it considers that it is too broad and disregards NBN Co.’s legitimate commercial interests.