Thursday, 24 March 2011
National Broadband Network Companies Bill 2010; Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures — Access Arrangements) Bill 2011
I suspect Senator Birmingham was about to reply directly; I thought it might be useful to put the position of the Australian Greens on the record at this stage. I went back and had a quick look at the submission that Telstra put to the committee—the one that the minister referred to briefly in his contribution. Telstra wrote an amendment. I do not know whether it is exactly word for word what Senator Birmingham is proposing tonight; I would not suspect that other people are doing the coalition’s homework under any circumstances at all. But in the submission they put that accompanied their proposed amendment they did state:
Telstra acknowledges that in limited circumstances, it may be necessary for NBN Co to engage with certain functions at Layer 3 in order to provide Layer 2 services to RSPs.
So there is even an acknowledgment there from Telstra. They went on to sketch one carve-out. So if it is a satellite service, for example, perhaps Telstra proposed a specific amendment to catch that. My point of view is that this is perhaps one of the very rare instances in this NBN debate where the coalition and the government are not actually all that far apart and the intentions are more or less the same, and I will associate the Australian Greens with that. It does undermine the entire principle of NBN Co. if it is working its way up the stack or up the value chain. I do not think anybody is seriously contemplating that it should be able to do that, but for purely technical reasons it is not possible to legislate a black-and-white boundary between the two kinds of service that NBN Co. might choose to offer.
I am a bit concerned at the amendment that Senator Birmingham has proposed. There again there is another carve-out. There are ways dealing with exemptions. But to me it sounds like a recipe for terrible micromanagement by the minister if he has to sign off on every one of these variations to the instrument. To me it feels as though there is potentially unnecessary intervention there by the minister. So we will not be supporting this amendment, although we do support the intention and we believe that the bill as drafted probably does take care of that potential for scope creep vertically, if you will. Again, this is another issue—and I am probably going to reference this a few times during the evening and tomorrow—where we want that reported. We want some transparency around what kind of entities and how often NBN Co. has gone and done that. We think this is probably not particularly a deal breaker for the coalition, but we will be voting with the government on this occasion.