A Bill to enable appropriate scrutiny of the Gillard Government’s proposed $43 National Broadband Network (NBN) has been introduced in the Senate today by Senator Simon Birmingham.
Senator Birmingham represents Shadow Communications and Broadband Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the Senate, and has introduced the National Broadband Network Financial Transparency Bill 2010 following its narrow defeat in the House of Representatives.
The Bill would require NBN Co, the Commonwealth-owned company that is rolling out the NBN, to produce and publish a detailed 10-year business plan, including key financial and operational indicators.
It also requires the Productivity Commission to conduct a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of the NBN and report back to the Parliament by 31 May 2011.
The Productivity Commission inquiry will include:
  • Analysis of the current availability of broadband across Australia, including the identification of suburbs and regions where services are of a lower standard or higher price than in the capital cities;
  • Consideration of the most cost-effective and speedy options by which fast broadband services can be made available to all Australians (particularly those in regional and remote areas and underserved metropolitan areas).
  • Consideration of the economic, productivity and social benefits likely to flow from enhanced broadband around Australia, and the applications likely to be used over such networks.
  • A full and transparent economic and financial assessment of the proposed NBN.
The terms of reference differ in some respects to those contained in the Bill introduced in the House of Representatives, reflecting some of the views provided by Independent Senators.
“Labor’s proposed NBN involves the investment of a vast sum of public money, and it is critical that the Government justify this investment,” Senator Birmingham said.
“It is extremely disappointing that the Government has so far not only failed to do so, but has gone to great lengths in its bid to delay the release of any business plan until after the Parliament has risen for the year.”