Coalition calls for NBN committee to be replaced

Senate's NBN inquiry releases second interim report

Coalition senators who are members of the Select Committee on the National Broadband Network have called for the committee to be scrapped.

The senate committee should be dissolved "and a new, properly constituted Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network be formed as existed in the previous Parliament," Coalition senators argued.

Such a move would give the government control of the new committee.

The recommendation is in a dissenting report attached to the Select Committee's second interim report.

"It is apparent the committee was established for the sole purpose of making rhetorical political points which have no basis in reality," the Coalition senators write.

"Assertions that the NBN is missing operational targets, that the NBN has become more secretive rather than less, and that the multi-technology mix will not deliver the benefits to the digital economy are not based in fact."

The first interim report was released in March last year.

The Coalition has previously attempted to scrap the Senate committee. Coalition Senator Cory Bernardi previously moved to have the committee disbanded.

NBN Co transparency

The report endorsed by the majority of the committee took aim at what it said was a lack of transparency from NBN Co since the Coalition oversaw a post-election purge of the company's board and management.

The report calls for the release of an unredacted version of the strategic review into the NBN rollout and "recommends that the government release the full version of NBN Co’s 2014-17 corporate plan, as was the practice under the former government, to enable the proper public scrutiny of the project".

"NBN Co refuses to divulge the value of the contracts it has entered into on behalf of the taxpayer on the basis that it would harm its commercial prospects, despite the fact that the value of these contracts was released by previous management without harm," the report states.

"Yet NBN Co is content to release detailed historical costs of FTTP and fixed wireless—despite the fact that NBN Co will need to secure contracts to roll out these technologies to 2020 and beyond."

The report also argues that the Commonwealth loses out in the revised agreement between Telstra and NBN Co.

The revised Telstra-NBN Co deal was necessary because of the shift to a 'multi-technology mix' rollout model for the NBN, which will use parts of Telstra's coper network and the telco's HFC network (along with Optus's).

The agreements "may result in the transfer of an asbestos risk to the Commonwealth," the report states. Asbestos in Telstra pits has previously delayed the NBN rollout in some areas.

"NBN Co has taken on an indefinite liability to maintain Telstra’s HFC network, and at the same time agreed to restrictions on its sale," the report states.

"It is unclear whether these arrangements will result in an effective taxpayer subsidy of pay TV services."

"The committee considers that the minister’s assertion that these agreements will result in 'no additional cost to taxpayers' is wrong," the report states.

"The taxpayer has lost value in these renegotiations. The committee further notes that the NBN Co officer heading up the negotiations on behalf of the taxpayer still owns Telstra shares."

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