Senate debates

Thursday, 24 March 2011

National Broadband Network Companies Bill 2010; Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures — Access Arrangements) Bill 2011

In Committee

4:31 pm

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Murray Darling Basin) Share this | Hansard source

The reality is that you have had the opportunity during this week to get out there and do the job properly and you failed to do it, failed to actually ensure that these amendments can be properly considered. As I said before, the opposition thinks there should be some breathing space. There should be an opportunity for these amendments to be properly considered. If you have further amendments, if you have other amendments that you are working on as a government, then there should be an opportunity for them to be properly considered for a couple of days. If you have other amendments that are necessary for the government to secure the support of the crossbenchers to get this through, there should be an opportunity for them to be considered for a couple of days. There should be a transparent opportunity for anyone who has a stake in this to have a say, to look at it and to consider all of the amendments on the table for a couple of days at least.

In reality it would be far better if we had a bit longer than that, but I understand that the government is time pressured on this. I understand the government is desperate to ensure that this legislation passes quickly so that you can get on with your negotiations with Telstra, delayed and fraught though they may already be. So I understand the government has a sense of urgency in wanting to deal with this. But a couple of days is not too much to have asked for to ensure that these amendments of substance are thoroughly considered by all of the parties and stakeholders involved in this debate. A couple of days is not unreasonable in that regard. It is especially not unreasonable when the government is conceding that there will be further amendments to come, that we have not seen the last of the amendments, that there will be more—so we will have to continue to update our understanding and knowledge of what it is you are proposing without the opportunity to thoroughly go out and consult stakeholders.

The reality is that these bills are not going to become law this week. The House of Representatives, the members of the other place, are probably starting to file out now, or pretty close to it, I suspect. They are heading off home, heading off to whatever they are doing back in their electorates for the weekend. They will be coming back next week. It is not unreasonable to suggest that perhaps they should come back late next week rather than early next week, to provide for the opportunity to have those couple of days’ breathing space. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the Senate should do likewise—rather than debating this now, coming back in the middle of next week after having had a couple of days to give thorough and decent analysis to these bills and to the amendments you are proposing.

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