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Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Page: 1906

Senator BOYCE (3:21 PM) —I would like to confirm and agree with my coalition colleagues on the travesty that was made of question time today by Senator Conroy. I must add that I was interested in one of his comments today. He said it would be remiss not to undertake due diligence on the business plan. Well we on this side of the chamber completely agree with him on that. In fact I put out a media release in April 2009 making the point that if anybody else was seeking to borrow so much money with so little detail as this government was to fund this pie in the sky program then the government regulators—ASIC, ASX—at the time would have knocked them out of the market, and yet the government is saying, ‘Take this on faith.’ Nothing has changed since April 2009 in terms of ‘take this on faith’.

Senator Moore suggested that it is somehow the coalition’s problem that we consider that the business plan should be released with some urgency. The urgency here is of the government’s making. We do not, in principle, care when we get to see the business plan, just do not expect us to debate and vote on the legislation until we do. That is the point. And nothing that the minister gave us today assisted in any way to clarify the information.

I was fascinated by his comments about other external advice—a little game, presumably, that Senator Conroy was playing. If he has useful information about how this is going to work, what the detail of it is, then what on earth is wrong with sharing it with this chamber—except of course they do not want to share any of it with this chamber because they are frightened of the result?

We all know that the government right now is taking a hit in the telecoms industry sector, in the IT sector and with the general community as to why it will not release it. What is in it? To continue to refuse to simply do a quick black marker exercise on this business plan, and for that matter the three-year corporate plan, and put them out for public discussion and analysis and debate suggests that there is something in there that the government is frightened about, and that would not surprise me. It is currently damaging its great big shiny NBN Co. by being so secretive and obfuscatory. By continuing with this secretive approach to it it is simply feeding the ideas of everyone that there is something there to hide.

The government could release it, but they will not. The longer they go on doing that, the more we are going to be of the view that there is something there to hide. And no wonder people are becoming very concerned about what is there and what is not there, given the fact that this all pottered along for well over 18 months without a business plan and without any detail—a thought bubble developed by former Prime Minister Rudd when he was back giving us big ideas.

It is interesting that the very existence of Infrastructure Australia is being questioned because there are no infrastructure projects of significance that they can suggest, and yet the biggest infrastructure project that has ever been undertaken in Australia will not be subject to the criteria that Infrastructure Australia have. It will not be subject to any inquiry by the Productivity Commission. It will not be subject to anything except an analysis by Greenhill Caliburn. The minister will not even answer the question: will you tell us when you get it and will you release it? It is just a travesty. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.