Minority Report - Government Senators
Government Senators note that this is the third Interim Report of the
Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network, with the earlier
reports having been tabled in December 2008 and May 2009.
Consistent with the previous approach by Opposition Senators, we believe
that the conclusions and recommendations arising from the Majority Report are
not necessarily reflective of the evidence presented, rather an affirmation of
the Opposition parties criticisms of the Government's telecommunications
Accordingly, Government Senators disagree with all but one of the
Opposition Senators recommendations. In particular, we highlight the
contradictory stance of Opposition Senators that on the one hand argue for
delay in proceeding with the NBN until further work is undertaken (Majority
Report Recommendations 2, 4, 5 and 6) and on the other hand complains that the Government
is not moving fast enough to build the NBN and recommends (Majority Report
Recommendation No. 3) to bring the NBN-specific legislation forward.
In addition, the Opposition Senators recommend (Majority Report
Recommendation No. 1) the consecutive roll-out across metropolitan, regional
and rural areas while at the same time recommending (Majority Report
Recommendations No. 7, 8 and 9) that no further work take place until all
implementation studies and cost analyses are completed, made public and
assessed independently, and then reviewed annually by the Productivity
This indicates their continuing opposition to the Labor Government’s
policy of a National Broadband Network. This opposition is thinly veiled in a
series of recommendations that seek to delay the complex process of preparing
the implementations study but it is overt in Recommendation 11, which
specifically seeks to delay the necessary regulatory reform that would ensure
that while the NBN is rolled out, the necessary reforms are made to the
existing regime to ensure more effective competition and stronger consumer safeguards.
The Government seeks to press ahead with their visionary policy for a
National Broadband Network for all Australians to ensure that our economy and
society is well placed to secure the productivity and connectivity benefits
afforded by an efficient, future-proof high-bandwidth network.
The Opposition has not articulated an alternative policy to deliver a
universal high-bandwidth network to all Australians, choosing instead to
represent the interests of the residual monopoly incumbent Telstra throughout
the course of the inquiry.
Whilst not directly related to the establishment of the NBN Co, the
Telecommunications Competition and Consumer Safeguards Bill was explored
towards the end of this committee’s considerations, notwithstanding its consideration
by another Senate Committee.
Government Senators note that this Bill, if passed, would improve
competition in the telecommunication sector and strengthen consumer protections
while the NBN is rolled out over the next eight years by rectifying the well-established
deficiencies in the existing regulatory framework. The recommendation to delay
the consideration of this Bill is therefore further evidence of the
Opposition’s intent to delay and obfuscate the necessary reforms to the
existing telecommunications regulatory regime.
Government Senators would like to acknowledge and thank witnesses for
appearing, some for third time, and providing their evidence, much of which is
informative and useful to the public understanding of the progress of the
national Broadband Network. Where this evidence has been accurately reflected
in the body of the report, we Government Senators are happy to associate with
Only one recommendation, No.10, is supported by Government Senators as
this is work already being embarked upon by a range of organisations and firms
across the public and private sector. This recommendation advocates the
development of new applications for use on the National Broadband Network, a
task the Government is already enthusiastically engaged in.
Government Senators noted with great interest the examples of
high-bandwidth applications and services being developed in health, education,
community and emergency services. The “Realising our Broadband Future” Forum
announced by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
for the December 10 2009, is an example of the strong Government focus that is
building around the new and innovative services and applications that will be
possible with a universal high bandwidth network for all Australians such as
the NBN will provide.
Senator Kate Lundy
25 November 2009
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