Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, has praised his opponent, Malcolm Turnbull, as having a relatively forward-thinking approach to the portfolio.
Conroy was speaking at an event in Sydney when he showered the Shadow Communications Minister with positive sentiments for changing the party’s long-standing policy on structurally separating Telstra and described it as “quite historic”.
The Coalition went to the last Federal election with a commitment not to separate Telstra’s retail and wholesale divisions, but has recently softened its stance.
“Since the election, Malcolm Turnbull has done a great job dragging the Liberal Party into the 21st century on broadband,” he said. “[He] has shifted them dramatically from the [Nick] Minchin position...I think he's just dealing with a whole bunch of people who don't know what they're talking about.
“They’ve now virtually adopted our 2007 policy and by the end of next week they may actually have adopted our 2010 policy.”
Conroy said he was optimistic the Government and the Coalition could successfully negotiate a resolution to the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010, for which Turnbull has proposed four amendments.
“I think two of them are unnecessary and were based on misconceptions and we can resolve that,” he said. “One of them is interesting and we’ll consider it.
“I’m looking forward to having that conversation…and Senator Steve Fielding has indicated over the last couple of weeks that he’s softened his view, not that he ever said he was opposed to it.”
The Government must pass its Bill before Telstra can put its agreement to shareholders in a vote. It needs the Coalition or Senator Steve Fielding to change positions for it to pass through the Senate.
But Conroy wasn’t entirely accepting of the new paradigm and refused to provide Turnbull with a complete copy of NBN Co’s business case for scrutiny when parts of it are released to the public later this year.
The praise also contrasts with comments issued by his office earlier this week, when he described Turnbull’s comments as “hypocritical”.
“It was the Liberals and Nationals who voted to privatise Telstra without any review and without ever putting in place the arrangements to properly protect competition and services in regional areas,” his spokesperson said in a statement.
The Communications Minister and Nick Minchin were known to share grudging respect for each other, with Minchin openly stating he preferred Conroy over Tanner in the position because he came from the Right faction of Labor.