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Government wins over senators to Telstra bill -

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Government wins over senators to Telstra bill

Broadcast: 24/11/2010

Reporter: Susan McDonald

The Federal Government has finally convinced cross-bench senators Steve Fielding and Nick Xenophon
to support a bill splitting up Telstra and paving the way for the National Broadband Network.


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: The Federal Government finally has enough support for a bill that's crucial
to the creation of the National Broadband Network.

Tonight, Family First Senator Steve Fielding has declared he'll support legislation to split up
Telstra's retail and wholesale arms.

The Senate is set to vote on the bill tomorrow before Parliament rises for the year, but the
Opposition hasn't ruled out trying to delay the final vote.

From Canberra, Susan McDonald reports.

SUSAN MCDONALD, REPORTER: In this new era of sunshine politics ...

JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER: Thank you for joining us from the shade of the side of the

SUSAN MCDONALD: ... the pressure's always on for greater transparency.

JULIA GILLARD: The Government today is releasing an important document to facilitate the passing of
the Telecommunications Structural Separation bill in the Senate.

SUSAN MCDONALD: After repeated refusals to release the 400-page business case for its broadband
network, the Government relented to demands from crossbench senators and produced a 36-page

NICK XENOPHON, INDEPENDENT SENATOR: Of course it's a compromise and I think the breakthrough came
after the Prime Minister's intervention in this.

JULIA GILLARD: We've determined that it is possible to publicly release carefully selected
materials which answer some of their key questions.

SUSAN MCDONALD: There's little new information to be found, but the document does show the NBN will
cost $35.7 billion, far less than the previous price tag of $43 billion.

JULIA GILLARD: It confirms that the NBN will be built on a financially viable basis with affordable
prices for customers.

SUSAN MCDONALD: To clinch Nick Xenophon's support for the telco bill, the Government also agreed to
a new parliamentary committee to oversee the NBN's eight-year rollout, with the Productivity
Commission in an advisory role.

NICK XENOPHON: I think you could say it was a close-run thing, but to quote the Bard, all's well
that ends well.

SUSAN MCDONALD: Steve Fielding was the last one to fall. He too has now offered his support, paving
the way for the bill's passage.

ERIC ABETZ, OPPOSITION SENATE LEADER: Don't give us any more hypocrisy!

SUSAN MCDONALD: But a vote hasn't happened as soon as the Government hoped. It tried to extend
sitting hours into night.

ERIC ABETZ: On the day that they claimed should be designated as "Go Home on Time Day", they have
voted the gag to ensure that we don't get home on time today.

SUSAN MCDONALD: But the Government didn't have enough senators in the chamber to have its way.

The Prime Minister didn't wait for the final vote to trumpet her achievement.

JULIA GILLARD: This is the day, this is the Parliament, this is the time to deliver that structural

SUSAN MCDONALD: In Question Time, there was no reprieve from the Opposition's attacks.

MALCOLM TURNBULL, OPPOSITION BROADBAND SPOKESMAN: In the light of that backdown, why won't she
agree to ask the Productivity Commission to advise on the fundamental question, which is whether
the $43 billion NBN is the most cost-effective way of delivering affordable broadband to all

SIMON CREAN, REGIONAL AUSTRALIA MINISTER: Simply opposing, being negative, stopping at every point!
Get on the bus! Come along with us!

SUSAN MCDONALD: Breakthrough or backdown, agreement may not have come on the Government's terms,
but it is before its deadline, a day before Parliament is due to rise for the year and exactly
three years since Labor came to power.

The anniversary is a milestone the Opposition rather than the Government is keen to mark.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER: On the third anniversary of the election of the Rudd government, I
regret to say that this has been possibly the most disappointing government in Australia's history.

JULIA GILLARD: I didn't realise when I came to the Parliament today that the Opposition had been
replaced by a history club. Some of us are interested in the nation's future and we'll get on with
debating that future.

SUSAN MCDONALD: And the Government wants the Senate to get on with debating the telco bill.

Susan McDonald, Lateline.