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Wednesday, 15 September 2010 19:48

Conroy lashes Turnbull on NBN, Telstra bill


The Federal Government will push to get its stalled telecommunications reform bill passed this year, and says the Opposition will be held to account for any delays and cost escalations for the National Broadband Network if the legislation is held up.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the legislation, which was first put to the Senate eight months ago, was necessary to enable the deal struck between Telstra, the NBN Company and Government to go ahead.

Coalition leader Tony Abbott and his new shadow communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull have not yet indicated whether the Opposition would continue to use its numbers to block the legislation ahead of the new Senate forming on July 1 next year.

But Senator Conroy said the legislation needed to be passed now to give Telstra shareholders certainty about agreements the company's management had indicated they would make in relation to the NBN roll-out.

"We are going to press ahead with our legislation," Senator Conroy told ABC television. "This legislation is critical to allow Telstra's investors to make a judgement and vote on the deal struck between the Government, NBN Co and the Telstra management."

"(The legislation) has been stalled in the parliament for 8 months. It improves protections for consumers in telecommunications. It gives the ACCC greater powers in the telecommunications area and importantly it gives the certainty Telstra shareholders need to be able to vote on that deal," he said.

"If we don't get that legislation through, let me be clear, there will be a slower roll-out caused by Tony Abbott, there will be a more expensive total cost of the build caused by Tony Abbott, and we'll have more overhead cabling because of Tony Abbott."

With Mr Turnbull looking at reviewing the broadband plan that the Opposition took to the election, Senator Conroy says the Coalition has now had 19 failed policies in the past 14 years.

Questioning Mr Turnbull's credentials for the shadow communications role, Senator Conroy said the former Ozemail chairman had been "chairperson of a dial up company '¦ which to be fair is closer to Coalition policy."

He said NBN Company had always planned to roll-out out parts of the network from the regions into the cities, and that any agreements it made with rural independents to focus on the regions would not add to the overall cost of the network.

Acknowledging that the NBN Company could generate bigger revenues if it started entirely in the cities, Senator Conroy said that had never been the Government's intention.

"There is no question that if you started 100 per cent in the capital cities you would get a faster revenue stream," Senator Conroy said.

"But that would be unfair and inequitable. And we reject this concept that metropolitan Australia deserves to have better broadband than rural and regional Australia," he said. "Our build has always been a mix between metropolitan, regional and rural Australia."

"A lot of these claims about the financial impact on the network have not even bothered to look at where we're building the national broadband network."

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