Thursday, 24 March 2011
National Broadband Network Companies Bill 2010; Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures — Access Arrangements) Bill 2011
In which case, Minister, the challenge that I put to you, having failed to answer satisfactorily whether we have the final amendments before us and whether the government is planning further changes of its own volition to try to get its house in order, is that we take those couple of days’ breathing space, that we actually allow these amendments to go back to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee and give them the opportunity to consider this—not for weeks, not for a long inquiry, because I am willing to accept your arguments of urgency, but for just two or three working days—and to give them the opportunity to air these amendments, to shine a spotlight on them, to ensure that all the stakeholders get their say. Indeed, you can provide further amendments if need be into that process so that the whole package is thoroughly considered. Then we can come back here next Wednesday, have the proper debate and get it done. Our colleagues from the other place can come back on Thursday or Friday, have their debate and get it done, and you will have your legislation by the end of next week, I am sure, if you do the job properly. That is all—one week. It could take one week in total to actually give these amendments proper airing, proper consideration, thorough examination and a full opportunity for stakeholders to actually have their say. That is all it would take, a full one-week period in which the committee could have a few days, the Senate gets a couple of days and the House gets a day or two. Everyone gets the opportunity to give that consideration and make sure the job is done properly rather than rush in the manner that you are proposing.
So I indicate that it is my intention to move that the committee report progress so that the Senate can then debate a motion to allow these bills, and more particularly these amendments, to be referred to the committee for consideration. That will give the committee those couple of days in which it can air those amendments and get feedback from the carriers, consumer groups, academics, the department and the government—get all of the relevant information—and do the homework that you seem to be so unwilling to do. The committee will do the homework you are unwilling to do and make sure that all of your amendments live up to your commitments and promises—that they all make sense and will actually do the job of providing the NBN as you claim you want to build it—whilst doing the best we can within this framework to protect consumers, to protect the taxpayer’s dollar and to ensure that the best interests of all are protected.
Senator Conroy, there is no need to pretend this is some great delaying tactic, because it is not a delaying tactic. I have told you: bring the Senate back next week and we will deal with it next week, but give these substantive amendments—these hundreds of amendments—a day or two of airing. Actually give them the consideration they deserve. Give them that consideration. I assure you, Senator Conroy, that if you do this then by this time next week you will have it all done and dusted, I am sure. By this time next week it will have been sorted, but the bills will have had the proper consideration given to them. With that, I move:
That progress be reported.