The National Party’s deputy senate leader, Fiona Nash, and Queensland senator, Barnaby Joyce, have spoken in favour of Telstra’s structural separation despite Liberal party opposition to the split.
“The Nationals certainly believed, some time ago now, that Telstra should have been structurally separated. It is a view that I certainly still hold, and I understand my colleague in front of me here, Senator Joyce, also holds that view,” Nash said in the Senate’s parliament sitting on November 26. “We are very open minded about that legislation…it needs to be considered as a separate entity, if you like, not as part of the whole NBN process.”
Joyce stressed the need to ensure other carriers had a level playing field when it comes to access.
“The structure needs to be in place for the regulatory environment for that competition to be able to ensue,” he added.
When contacted by ARN, a National party spokesperson said neither senator would elaborate further on their position regarding Telstra’s separation but would not rule out voting for the legislation next year.
Nash’s comments come as the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, was force to break his promise of a pre-Christmas Telstra split when the Senate ran out of time to debate the issue. The broken deadline was caused by extensive discussions on the emissions trading scheme (ETS) and means Telstra will not be restricted from buying more wireless spectrum until at least early February 2010, when the Senate resumes sittings.
In contrast to senators, Nash and Joyce, the Liberal party last month launched its public opposition to the Government’s legislation.
“We remain fundamentally oppose to what amounts to a blatant attack on the shareholders of a publicly listed Australian company,” then shadow communications minister, Senator Nick Minchin, said in a statement. “The Rudd Government must respect the interests of shareholders, cease its threats and ultimatums, and negotiate with Telstra over the NBN and its structure on a proper commercial basis.”
Any recriminations against the maverick National party senators will likely have to wait until the Liberal Party resolves its policy and leadership issues, which caused the resignation of Senator Minchin on November 27.
“I advised that I would have no alternative but to resign from the Shadow Cabinet as I was not able to support the CPRS legislation. My further recommendation was that my resignation from the Shadow Cabinet take effect as soon as the Senate rises for the year next week. Mr Turnbull has accepted my recommendation,” he said in a statement.