The Federal Government has released a full summary of NBN Co’s business case before its Telstra separation Bill goes before a vote. The reversal comes after significant pressure from the Opposition and cross-bench Senators to get the document.
Speaking at a press conference, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, confirmed Senator Nick Xenophon had sealed a deal with the the Government that will see more scrutiny and transparency of the $43 billion National Broadband Network.
"We have determined, following discussions, that it is possible to publicly release carefully selected materials... which will allow [members of the parliment] to explain to their constituents their decision making process," Gillard said. "But we have been very careful and the material being released will not cause any market uncertainty and it does not relate to matters under cabinet consideration."
She stressed the information will not cause market uncertainty.
The full 400-page business case will not be released and the summary is 36 pages long. It will be provided to independent senators and cross-benchers first before it is publicly released.
Senators Xenophon, Steve Fielding and the Australian Greens were offered full copies as long as they signed a confidentiality agreement – a condition all parties refused.
The document will cover a number of topics including a detail timeline for product releases and the types of products offered through the NBN. More importantly, it notes the NBN's rate of return is in excess of the Government's bond rate and therefore confirms the network is financially viable, according to the Prime Minister.
Xenophon will be given a full briefing by NBN Co CEO, Mike Quigley, and will be free to discuss what he’s told. The NBN will also get oversight from a special parliamentary committee, which will run for the full duration of its rollout.
“Throughout this process I have argued that the Government needed to publicly release the information in the NBN Business Plan that the Senate needed in order to make an informed decision on this Bill," he told Adelaide Now. "Until last night it was refusing, arguing that information was commercial in confidence. I didn’t buy that.”
The issue of NBN Co’s business case being released has caused plenty of controversy in Parliament House. The Government had held its ground despite Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, narrowly escaping a gag order from the Senate.
The deal comes after last-minute negotiations between the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and Senator Xenophon. The Australian Greens had protested the lack of a published business case, but supported the Bill in exchange for key concessions over NBN Co’s privatisation.