Conroy fights back against the Senate

Communications Minister defies the Senate and refuses to guarantee McKinsey implementation study release

The Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, has defended Government delays in releasing the $25 million McKinsey implementation study into the NBN and refused to promise a public release.

During his appearance on the ABC’s Lateline program, Conroy said a 'no' vote in the Senate wouldn't delay NBN Co’s work.

He used the start of digging for fibre optic cables in Mt Isa and the rollout of trial sites in Tasmania as examples of its inevitability.

“The bill we’ve put out is a draft exposure. It puts regulations around the NBN and looks at what constraints are needed on a company that could ultimately become a wholesale monopoly,” Conroy said.

The Minister then refused to guarantee the report would see the light of day and said the decision on whether it would lay with Labor’s cabinet. No date for the decision was provided.

“[The report] is hundreds and hundreds of pages long. It’s a very complex and important document and at the moment I’m in the process of briefing my cabinet colleagues on it,” he said.

“The Government as a whole is accessing it and will make some decisions on that in the near future. It’s not unreasonable for the Government to say ‘we’d like to consider this document ourselves and understand all the implications of it.’”

But the Senator did reveal some information about the report and claimed it included some “very surprising and positive recommendations”.

“It was commissioned on the basis that no deal with any other telecommunications company [would be made], Telstra included,” he said. “It’s not tied with any outcomes of negotiations with Telstra.

“There are 80-odd recommendations in this lead advisor’s report that cover a whole variety of issues including [retail pricing].”

The Minister has broken two senate orders moved on March 10 and 17 by the Australian Greens and the Coalition, respectively, which demanded the Government produce the McKinsey study.

“It’s unacceptable that the only independent study into it has been suppressed,” Australian Greens communications spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam, said. “It’s a $25m study into the largest infrastructure project that ever been proposed.

“Unless they release corroborating evidence, then the Minister is just expecting us to trust him on the NBN and under the circumstances trust is in pretty short supply.”

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