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Tuesday, 1 March 2011
Page: 1881


Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (5:57 PM) —I move:

(1)   That a Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network (NBN) be appointed to inquire into and report on the rollout of the NBN;

(2)   that every six months, commencing 31 August 2011, until the NBN is complete and operational, the Committee provide progress reports to both Houses of Parliament and to shareholder Ministers on:

(a)   the rollout of the NBN, including in relation to the Government’s objective for NBN Co. Limited (NBN Co.) to:

(i)   connect 93 per cent of Australian homes, schools and businesses with fibre-to-the-premises technology providing broadband speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, with a minimum fibre coverage obligation of 90 per cent of Australian premises; and

(ii)   service all remaining premises by a combination of next-generation fixed wireless and satellite technologies providing peak speeds of at least 12 megabits per second;

(b)   the achievement of take-up targets (including premises passed and covered and services activated) as set out in NBN Co.’s Corporate Plan released on 20 December 2010 as revised from time to time;

(c)   network rollout performance including service levels and faults;

(d)   the effectiveness of NBN Co. in meeting its obligations as set out in its Stakeholder Charter;

(e)   NBN Co.’s strategy for engaging with consumers and handling complaints;

(f)   NBN Co.’s risk management processes; and

(g)   any other matter pertaining to the NBN rollout that the Committee considers relevant;

(3)   that the Committee consist of 16 members, 4 Members of the House of Representatives to be nominated by the Government Whip or Whips, 4 Members of the House of Representatives to be nominated by the Opposition Whip or Whips, and one non-aligned Member, 3 Senators to be nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, 3 Senators to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and one Senator to be nominated by any minority group or groups or independent Senator or independent Senators;

(4)   that:

(a)   participating members may be appointed to the Committee on the nomination of the Leader of a Party in either House or of an Independent Member in either House;

(b)   participating members may participate in hearings of evidence and deliberations of the Committee and have all the rights of members of the Committee, but may not vote on any questions before the Committee; and

(c)   a participating member shall be taken to be a member of the Committee for the purpose of forming a quorum of the Committee if a majority of members of the Committee are not present;

(5)   that every nomination of a member of the Committee be notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives;

(6)   that the members of the Committee hold office as a joint standing committee until the House of Representatives is dissolved or expires by effluxion of time;

(7)   that the Committee elect an independent (non-aligned) member as Chair;

(8)   that, in the event of an equally divided vote, the Chair have a casting vote;

(9)   that three members of the Committee constitute a quorum of the Committee provided that in a deliberative meeting the quorum shall include one Government Member of either House and one non-Government Member of either House;

(10)   that the Committee have power to call for witnesses to attend and for documents to be produced;

(11)   that the Committee may conduct proceedings at any place it sees fit;

(12)   that the Committee have power to adjourn from time to time and to sit during any adjournment of the Senate and the House of Representatives;

(13)   that the provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the standing orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders; and

(14)   that a message be sent to the Senate acquainting it of this resolution and requesting that it concur and take action accordingly.

The establishment of this Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network with very wide terms of reference and a balanced membership demonstrates the government’s commitment to openness and transparency for the NBN. Unlike those opposite, who are determined to destroy the NBN under the guise of subjecting it to continuous political process and delay, the government supports genuine transparency. The establishment of this joint committee honours an undertaking given by the Prime Minister to Senator Xenophon during the passage of the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010 late last year. It is a bill that delivers historic reforms to the telecommunications sector and improved consumer protections, one that the opposition obstructed for almost a year. The committee will compose seven government members and seven coalition members, drawn from each house, with a non-aligned member from each house. Any member or senator will be able to participate upon a resolution of either chamber. The government has agreed to support the Independent member for Lyne, Mr Oakeshott, should he nominate as the chair of the committee. This is an important part of transparency for the National Broadband Network. I commend this motion to the House.