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Thursday, 10 November 2011
Page: 8855

Australia Network


Senator HUMPHRIES (Australian Capital Territory) (14:51): Mr President, my question is to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy. I refer the minister to his statement in the Senate on Tuesday regarding the corrupted Australia Network tender process emphasising that, 'at all times the government has acted within the terms and conditions of the tender process'. Has the government had independent advice to confirm that it has, as claimed, acted at all times within the terms and conditions of the tender process? From whom has the government received the advice? When was it provided? If there is no such advice, on what basis or on whose assessment has the minster concluded that the government has acted at all times within the terms and conditions of the tender process?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:52): The overall probity of the tender process was the Australian Government Solicitor. I myself had a legal adviser from the AGS who gave us the advice. As to the date, I would probably have to take it on notice as to exactly what that date was. But we used the Australian Government Solicitor.


Senator HUMPHRIES (Australian Capital Territory) (14:52): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for confirming that the Australian Government Solicitor has advised that at all times the government has acted within the terms and conditions of the tender process. I ask—

Government senators interjecting

Senator HUMPHRIES: That is what I think he said.

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! You need to ask a question. You need to get to the question. You should not give a preamble to your question.

Senator HUMPHRIES: If I have misunderstood the answer, I would be grateful if the minister would clarify what it was he did say. Does the minister accept that responsibility for this debacle must lie somewhere within the government?





Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:53): The Australian Federal Police are conducting the investigation into the leak. As for your political slandering of anyone you can try to drag in, the Australian Federal Police are investigating this and we await their report. But the premise of your question we reject utterly.


Senator HUMPHRIES (Australian Capital Territory) (14:54): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Has the government received any indication from either bidding party that they may seek to recoup from the government the costs of their participation in these two failed tenders? If so, will he table that correspondence?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:54): I think you can read about it in one of the organs of News Limited; it is fairly widely available. Yes, I have received a letter which indicated—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator CONROY: It is a confidential letter. It is a private letter that has gone to the department. I am not sure I am in a position to release a private letter. It has been referred to, I think, in a number of articles. As to the question of cost, I repeat the statement I made on Tuesday: we are considering all of the issues as part of the ongoing consideration by cabinet of the Australia Network contract.