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Wednesday, 20 October 2010 00:05

Gillard brings forward Telstra reform bill


Coalition calls for a full Productivity Commission cost-benefit analysis of the $43 billion National Broadband Network was simply a delaying tactic from an Opposition "determined to wreck" the project, Prime Minister Julia Gillard says.

Speaking on ABC television's Lateline, Ms Gillard said Government would today introduce its telecommunications reform legislation - which provides the framework for the structural separation of Telstra - and has challenged Coalition leader Tony Abbott and shadow communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull to put their opposition to the roll-out on the parliamentary voting record.

An earlier version of the telco reform bill had previously been passed by the House, but had been stalled in the Senate since late last year, with the Opposition using procedural tactics to force delays.

Since then, the Government has signed a Heads of Agreement with Telstra on the structural separation of the company and the staged migration of Telstra customers to the NBN, and Ms Gillard says it is time to get on with the changes so the NBN roll-out can proceed.

"The bill that we will be introducing tomorrow deals with the structural separation of Telstra," the Prime Minister told Lateline. "This is a long term policy goal, and it is a key micro-economic reform where we separate the backbone - the infrastructure - from the retail sales."

"We will be pursuing it, and it becomes a question for Mr Abbott and for Mr Turnbull as to whether they will stand in the way of this key micro-economic reform, which '¦ will be better for business, better for customers, and enable the further development of the National Broadband Network."

"We're determined to get on with the business of delivering the National Broadband Network. If Mr Abbott is determined to wreck that, then I would think we should have that made clear though how votes are exercised in the Parliament," Ms Gillard said.

Government was confident of getting support in both houses of the Greens and cross-benches, pointing to the strong support the independents have shown the NBN.

"It is very, very well known that the independents and the Greens have been strong supporters of the National Broadband Network," Ms Gillard said.

"Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor, both from regional communities, have been strong supporters because they understand the power this technology to get services to their communities that the tyranny of distance prevented (in the past.)"

Mr Turnbull's plan to introduce a private members bill that would require a cost-benefit analysis of the NBN project - as well as the formation of a joint-select committee to oversee the project was motivated solely "about delays and wrecking and opposition."

"We're going to get on with the job of doing it and not allow ourselves to be diverted by the wrecking tactics of the Opposition," Ms Gillard said.

"I am not going to sit here and watch this nation end up in a circumstance where it exports jobs to Singapore and Korea and other countries in our region that end up with better infrastructure and better broadband than us."


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