Labor Senators' additional comments
The committee notes that the agreed timetable for Thursday, 29 May 2014
was for the hearing to commence at 9 am and conclude at 11 pm.
The Chair, Senator Williams, interrupted proceedings at around 10.20 pm
on Thursday, 29 May 2014 with the statement: 'We are four hours into this. We
started half an hour early; we are finishing at 10.30.'
Senator Conroy expressed concern at the Chair’s decision: 'No, no. You
actually do not get to overturn a Senate resolution just because you have
decided to. The Senate has decided that estimates takes place this week. Let's
be very clear: no-one has previously closed the committee down. You are closing
it down. You are not allowed to close down Senate estimates.'
The Chair, Senator Williams, responded: 'Order! I will make this point.
We have had four hours stipulated for NBN.'
Senators Urquhart, Conroy and Pratt highlighted during the hearing that
Coalition Senators had requested four hours on Australia Post for the evening
of Wednesday, 28 May 2014 and that the committee finished early because few
Coalition Senators were in attendance to seek explanations of Australia Post.
Labor Senators note that when formulating the program for the
Communications Portfolio, Labor Senators recommended less time on Australia
Post and scheduling ACMA and/or TUSMA on Wednesday, 28 May 2014. Labor Senators
sought a minimum of 5¼ hours for Labor Senators to question NBN Co, which is
reasonable considering the new strategy deployed by the Government regarding
the NBN. The Chair, Senator Williams, used his majority on the committee to
restrict the time on NBN Co for all Senators. Labor Senators note that the
requested time could easily have been accommodated if the Coalition had not
requested such an excessive amount of time with Australia Post and moved other
agencies to the Wednesday evening.
The committee finally held a private meeting from 10.25 pm to 10.28 pm
on Thursday, 29 May 2014 where Coalition Senators voted to suspend the
estimates committee at 10.35 pm.
Labor Senators express their concern that the Coalition used their
majority on the committee to suspend estimates 25 minutes before the time
decreed by the Senate when Senators still had further explanations to seek of
Urquhart Senator Louise Pratt
Deputy Chair Senator
for Western Australia
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