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Conroy naive to say: I hope to sign broadband contract 'by March'



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Wed, 4th February 2009

CONROY NAIVE TO SAY: I HOPE TO SIGN BROADBAND CONTRACT 'BY MARCH'

Senator the Hon Nick Minchin Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate

Senator Stephen Conroy’s ambition to sign a contract for the roll-out of a National Broadband Network (NBN) “by March” is both totally “naive and unrealistic” according to Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Nick Minchin.

Yesterday in Question Time Senator Minchin asked the Communications Minister whether it remained his ambition to sign a contract with a successful tenderer by the end of March and “prior to the establishment of a regulatory framework, which will presumably require legislation to be considered, debated and passed by this parliament”.

After some irrelevant obfuscation, Senator Conroy finally responded: “I have already answered that question … I said our ambition was to sign by March”.

“Senator Conroy is dreaming if he thinks he will be in a position to sign an NBN contract by March or by the end of March,” Senator Minchin said.

“Does he seriously believe a tenderer would be prepared to sign a substantial contract before fundamental regulatory issues - including the establishment of an access and pricing regime - are resolved and before any necessary legislation is passed by the Parliament?” Senator Minchin asked.

Senator Minchin also asked Senator Conroy that having received the report from his expert panel on NBN bids, whether he was now in a position to finally concede “that Labor’s election promise of rolling out fibre to the node to 98 per cent of population is unaffordable and cannot be delivered?”

Senator Conroy responded: “Let me be clear: Labor’s election commitment will be delivered”.

“Senator Conroy continues to claim that fibre will be rolled out to 98 per cent of Australian homes and businesses, despite all the evidence suggesting this is simply not possible, without a substantial increase to his planned taxpayer contribution of $4.7 billion,” Senator Minchin said.

“By engaging in this charade, Senator Conroy is simply delaying the inevitable - having to come clean with the Australian public and admit that Labor deceived it with its election promise to build a new fibre to node or premise network which would reach 98 per cent of homes and businesses,” Senator Minchin said.

“Despite Senator Conroy’s continued bravado, this project was meant to have started in 2008 and there is growing scepticism about whether Australians will indeed receive any actual benefits in 2009 either.”