Thursday, 24 March 2011
National Broadband Network Companies Bill 2010; Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures — Access Arrangements) Bill 2011
I guess Senator Xenophon’s question goes to what Senator Macdonald said before: that the horses have bolted, and what is the point of fixing this after the market structure has blown out or people are being squeezed out. I think that is a difficult question to answer because the time lines will be different for different aspects of the bill. We will know whether freedom of information provisions are being abused within 12 months because if the commission is being pelted with malicious FOI requests or ones that are being knocked back one after another, we will know that straightaway.
I think there are several aspects of this, including issues like scope creep, and it will take some time to tell. If NBN Co. is starting to grow out of its box and move into a space that it clearly was not intended for, we are proposing rolling reviews on a fairly regular basis that will transparently tell us that that is happening and when it is happening. So I can commit that we are not proposing simply to set and forget. As part of his agreement with the government late last year, Senator Xenophon proposed the establishment of a joint standing committee that would oversee the rollout of this project—that would be its whole job; that is all it would do—and I feel that would be a very important vehicle in determining whether the reality was matching what was in the business plan, what was in the minister’s speech and what we were told this entity would do. I am not planning on going anywhere in the next little while. I hope these issues do not need to be revisited but if they do we will certainly be there to perform that function.