The Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, has condemned the Opposition over its bid to delay debate on Telstra’s separation.
In a statement released by Senator Conroy, the Minister accused the Opposition of “filibustering” to prevent debate on the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009.
“Today, the Shadow Communications spokesman has been crying crocodile tears about the draft NBNco bills,” he said. “After doing nothing for 11½ years the Opposition are wilfully and deliberately blocking measures designed to fix problems with the existing telecommunications regulatory framework.
“If the Opposition is serious about improving competition in the market, they need to stop playing opposition for opposition’s sake and allow debate to begin.”
But the Chief Opposition Whip in the Senate, Senator Stephen Parry, claimed the delay was due to Conroy’s mismanagement and accused the Minister of cutting off debate.
“For reasons apparent to no-one but himself, [Minister Conroy] tried, without warning, to bring on a bill for less than 15 minutes debate,” he said. “When the Coalition refused to rearrange the previously agreed business of the day Senator Conroy suggested we had filibustered on other legislation.”
Parry went on to claim the Government was shaping legislative timetables around overseas travel without leaving enough time for debate.
“In November last year, Senator Conroy could have brought on the bill he wanted to debate today, but instead he was on a week-long trip to Egypt,” he said. “Now, all of a sudden, on the last sitting day of a week, he wanted to bring it on for 15 minutes.”
The argument comes as the Government faces opposition from several parties over newly proposed legislation to define the rules on NBNco.
Businesses and telcos worried about the potential for a Government-funded move into retail Internet provision. The Australian Greens are calling for the NBN to be kept within Commonwealth hands.