The Federal Government has released the drafts for two bills related to the National Broadband Network, with one calling for the sale of NBN Co within five years of it being "built and fully operational".
The NBN Companies Bill 2010 and the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (NBN Measures – Access Arrangements) Bill 2010 were released for public comment on Wednesday. Submissions close on March 15.
According to the proposed NBN Companies Bill 2010, the Government must own at least 51 per cent of NBNco’s shares until the network is declared to be “built and fully operational”.
However, once declared, the Bill sets out a timetable by which NBNco must be sold off. The timetable can be extended by and unlimited number of 12 month periods.
“The Finance Minister must ensure that the Commonwealth’s remaining equity in NBNco is transferred, or progressively transferred, to other persons within five years after the network declaration time,” the exposure draft said.
"There’s no limit on the number of extensions the Finance Minister can make. Any limit would be artificial and could force a sale at an undesirable time," a spokesperson for Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner, added.
The Australian Greens communications spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam, said he would be pushing the Government to change its plans to legislate privatisation.
"I am dumbfounded as to why Communications Minister Stephen Conroy would build a company from scratch at such enormous public cost to then sell it down automatically," he said in a statement.
"It sets us up for a repeat of the Telstra privatisation mess that we're still trying to clean up."
The NBNco will be required to give the Finance and Communications Ministers notification of major changes or events and provide them with a detailed corporate plan once a year.
But the Bill states the Finance Minister can prevent the release of gathered information if, “the publication of which might be expected to prejudice substantially NBNco’s commercial interests".
For more information, visit the Government’s exposure draft site here.
Submissions or questions on submissions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org