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Tuesday, 19 October 2010 15:24

Greens may support Coalition NBN cost bill


Coalition calls for the Productivity Commission to conduct a full cost-benefit analysis of the National Broadband Network and for the project to be overseen by a parliamentary committee was designed simply to delay the roll-out of the high-speed fibre network, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said.

But the Bill may get a sympathetic hearing from the Greens, whose numbers could get it through both houses of Parliament. Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam said the party was evaluating the proposal, but was wary about intention.

"The Australian Greens Party Room will consider whether this is a serious bid for relevance and transparency, or another in a long line of Coalition delaying tactics designed to destroy the network," Senator Ludlam said.

But Senator Conroy said the Coalition plan to introduce a Private Members Bill that would require the Productivity Commission to conduct a 10-year cost benefit analysis by the end of May next year, was simply a delaying tactic, and that the KPMG-McKinsey Implementation Study had already provided detailed financial analysis of the project.

And he said further financial details of the project would be contained in the NBN Company business plan, which is due to be submitted to Government by the end of the month, parts of which would be made public.

"The Implementation Study provides a detailed analysis of the cost to deliver the NBN and it found that the $43 billion total capital cost is a conservative estimate and there are opportunities to significantly reduce the build cost," Senator Conroy said.

"The Heads of Agreement between NBN Co and Telstra will also reduce the cost of the build by billions. According to the Implementation Study, NBN Co will generate sufficient earnings by the end of year 7 so that the investment required by Government will peak at $26 billion, of which $18.3 billion will be required over the next four years," he said.

A Coalition joint party room meeting today said it would support a Private Members Bill - the National Broadband Network Financial Transparency Bill 2010 - which aimed to force the cost-benefit analysis.

A notice of motion for the Bill was to be tabled by shadow communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull.

The Bill required the NBN Company to produce and publish a detailed 10-year business plan, including key financial and operational indicators, and for the Productivity Commission to carry out a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of the project.

Senator Conroy said it was time to get on with the NBN build so that all Australians could get access to fast broadband services.

"If the Federal Liberals and Nationals were serious about ensuring Australians had access to world class telecommunications infrastructure they would support the NBN rollout," Senator Conroy said.

"Australians have already had to wait 12 years for action while the former Howard Government did nothing to improve broadband services across the country, they don't deserve to put up with further delays."


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