Thursday, 25 November 2010
Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010
I think it is quite appropriate that Senator Back finished on Odgers and the role of Senate committees in scrutinising bills, because it is worth reminding senators opposite that this bill was the subject of a Senate inquiry some time ago. It is appropriate that complex legislation that has long-term effects be subject to such scrutiny by the Senate, and I, for one, believe that opposition senators were afforded every opportunity to participate in that inquiry.
With regard to the assertion from those opposite that this issue has lacked scrutiny, I remind them that, when the opposition had full control of the Senate, they constituted the Select Committee on the National Broadband Network. That committee made no fewer than four reports to the Senate through the course of the introduction of the National Broadband Network and during the phases when greater detail about the network was coming to light, including, importantly, on the implementation study, which did make a series of observations about the nature of the network, and on the absolute relevance of the cutting-edge technology being deployed in terms of fibre to the home. Indeed, the committee provided much information about the crossover point on the financials with regard to the rollout and returns and revenues to NBN Co. So, no fewer than four reports were delivered.
Senator Macdonald at one point chaired the committee and Senator Fisher also chaired the committee. In fact, the committee was structured so that the opposition had a full and clear majority at every step of the way. So the opposition had the perfect opportunity to extract the information they wanted, and they were able to have access to those who put together the implementation study as witnesses providing evidence to the committee.
When you come in here and make a song and dance about not being able to access information—and we also had Senator Back’s immature reference to the dictionary definition of ‘arcane’—it is clear that this is a filibuster. The opposition does not have anything substantive to say about the National Broadband Network and, more importantly, the structure of our telecommunications industry, which is the subject of this bill. It is disappointing that the contributions are so light on in their actual interest in the policy at hand, given that the rhetoric that has been thrown across the chamber is about wanting more information.
Another thing I would like to mention is the way in which the opposition are presenting their issues. They are making a lot of stuff up. Every speaker has used a different number, in terms of billions of dollars, so very clearly they are trying to create a fear campaign. Senator Back used a figure of $50 billion, which has no bearing on the issue we are discussing at all. They are just making it up and doing scribbled numbers on notepaper in front of them to generate a campaign of misleading information to put into the public arena. If the opposition had good intentions to scrutinise this bill and scrutinise the government, they would not only support this amendment—