Reaction: NBN Senate extension raises concerns

Reaction: NBN Senate extension raises concerns

Industry players anxious about potential last-minute changes

Senate sitting hours have been extended for the NBN, sparking mixed reaction from industry players.

The upper house is now sitting on Friday – instead of adjourning Thursday and not returning until May 10 – after Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is pushing the urgency to debate the NBN bills. Internode managing director Simon Hackett is concerned about the potential last-minute changes to the legislation.

The move for an extension, and recalling of parliament outside its original schedule, comes after Senator Conroy released 23 pages of amendments to existing NBN legislation.

“The current parcels of legislation look like a mass of separate elements being driven in relative isolation, some of which are being amended in a great hurry against short term deadlines," Hackett said.

“The challenge when you smash disparate elements together in haste is that the by-products of such a collision can be unpredictable and unfortunate. Telstra has been successfully gaming and exploiting flaws in the existing telecommunications laws for two decades, despite those laws being constructed with great care.

“I fear that Telstra may be even more successful in gaming these new laws, over the next 50 years, as they are being constructed with far less time being allowed for proper consideration. Last minute, non-trivial, changes in complex laws are not building industry confidence in good outcomes.”

A Telstra spokesman on the NBN matter said: “Telstra wants the Bill passed as soon as possible, albeit amended to reflect our areas of concern. The Senate has made it clear that it intends to sit until the outcome of the Bills are decided.”

Meanwhile, iPrimus CEO, Ravi Bhatia, said he’s perturbed by the latest developments.

“My first reaction is, ‘Why the hell is it taking so long? We’ve been involved in the process for three years now, and this always seems to happen on the last day of Parliament sitting.”

In other NBN developments, the company building the $36 billion NBN has been given permission to finish its project in December 2020 – it was originally planned for June 2018.

Conroy said the additional time was needed to connect an extra one million homes to super-fast broadband.

More to follow.

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