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Friday, 10 September 2010 13:38

Clear path forward for NBN: Greens


Whatever other complications minority government might create, in communications policy there is a clear path forward, according to Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam.

The clearly articulated support for the National Broadband Network of independent MPs Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott, Andrew Wilkie  and Bob Katter gave the project the numbers in the Lower House. And the Greens, as strong NBN supporters, will hold the balance of power in the Senate.

The question that remains is whether the Opposition will continue to play a blocking strategy in the Senate, where legislation related to the voluntary separation of Telstra has been stalled for 10 months.

Regardless, Senator Ludlam says those blocking tactics would merely forestall the legislation's passing until July next year, when the new Senate sits and the Greens hold the numbers.

Senator Ludlam, who was reaffirmed as the Greens communications spokesman this week, says the clear preference would be to get the legislation dealt with as soon as practical.

But if it is delayed until mid-next year, it should have no real impact on the NBN roll-out or the telecommunications industry reforms.

"Broadband played a central role in the election campaigns. It was one of the areas where there was a policy difference that was quite stark between the two major parties," Senator Ludlam told iTWire.

"The fact is that that Greens put (its) cards on the table pretty early about the model we preferred and the regional independents did the same in saying it was a very important factor in them giving Julia Gillard the right to form a government," he said.

"We have expressed a view that our preferred model is fibre to the premises as much as possible and that we will pursue that project with the greatest degree of transparency that we are able."

'In the the Upper House, the Greens quite clearly as a balance of power expressed a view on which model we preferred, and now you've got a similar situation in the House of Representatives. So I think there is a pretty clear pathway forward."

Senator Ludlam said he is waiting until the frontbench teams of the two major parties are named to better understand what the Opposition tactics on NBN and telecommunications reform will be in the Senate.

"My first job is to establish from the Opposition whether they are going to pursue a simple blocking strategy or whether there is some room to move on any of those reforms," he said.

The Greens still have some amendments it wants introduced to the reform bill around the ownership of the NBN Company and some consumer safeguards, but says if the Opposition is going to continue its filibuster of the legislation he would have some sympathy with Government delaying the bill being brought forward.

"We have still got some unresolved issues with the Government and we want that bill debated, but probably doesn't make much sense if the Opposition and Senator Fielding intend to continue a filibuster," Senator Ludlam said.

"I think it's an enormous shame, but it doesn't change the picture too much from before the election. Except that Telstra management now know what the lie of the land ahead is."

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