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Thursday, 18 November 2010
Page: 1578

Senator ABETZ (10:24 AM) —I seek leave to move a motion relating to the government’s refusal to provide certain documents related to the NBN, as circulated in the chamber.

Leave not granted.

Senator ABETZ —Given the government’s refusal to give leave to deal with the issue of the government’s refusal to provide certain documents related to the NBN, and pursuant to contingent notice, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent him moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion to give precedence to a motion relating to the Government’s refusal to provide certain documents concerning the National Broadband Network.

The government’s ongoing refusal to produce the documents that we have been seeking, namely the National Broadband Network business plan and the government’s response to the McKinsey & Company and KPMG implementation plan, is a matter of grave national concern. It is a matter of grave national importance. What we are talking about is a $43,000 million infrastructure project which still to date does not have a publicly released business plan or an implementation plan. Indeed, Senators Ludlam and Birmingham have moved a motion, which was carried in this place, requiring the production of those documents. The minister is currently in contempt of the Senate by not producing those documents. What it shows is a minister that is highly, highly arrogant or a minister that has got a lot to hide. What this government is saying to us is: ‘We will release the documents but after the parliament has risen.’ That is not good enough. That is not the sort of transparency and openness that we were promised by the Labor Party—and, might I add, by the Labor Party and the Greens, when they came together in their alliance.

Senator Ludlam and Senator Xenophon have both put the government on notice in relation to its ongoing refusal to produce these documents. I welcome their comments in that regard, that the rubber has now hit the road. These senators, the crossbench senators, now have the opportunity to show that they were not just making idle threats for a media headline but that they actually mean business with this government and they will not allow further consideration of NBN matters until these documents are produced.

We are being asked to support legislation, which I have in this folder, relating to the NBN, and we are being asked to vote on matters in relation to the NBN without the business plan and without the implementation plan. Without that documentation before us, how on earth can we make a due, proper and considered decision in relation to that particular piece of legislation? What is worse, the minister is going to insult us this afternoon, if this motion is not passed, with a ministerial statement about the NBN—which will undoubtedly tell us that we are all dear things and that we do not need the information to vote in relation to this legislation and that we can all go home for a Christmas break without being informed of this vital information.

The government parades the NBN as its big nation-building program. What has it got to hide? I say to the government: if it is such a good program, release the business plan. It is only 400 pages. We know what this government will do. When it had to deal with Fuelwatch it could get public servants to work 37 hours straight. What has the government done with the public servants in relation to this business plan? It is a clear go-slow approach. There is no extra work done on this. It is deliberately designed to hide from the parliament and from parliamentary scrutiny this very, very important information.

We on this side of the chamber say that we as a Senate should no longer consider any further matters related to the NBN until these fundamental documents are provided to us. These are the underpinning documents. These are the foundational documents. These are the documents that we actually need. We need to rely on these documents to be able to consider the legislation and whatever other matters might be put before us in the future in relation to this $43,000 million project. Surely the Australian people should not be treated with this sort of contempt—but they are. We in this Senate are empowered by the Australian people through the Constitution and our standing orders to make the government provide these documents or no longer consider the minister’s ministerial statement that he wants to give this afternoon. This is an opportunity for the Senate, and especially the crossbenchers, to show that they are serious on this, and I invite them to join us in support of this motion.