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13    Communications— Universal Service Obligation—Order for production of documents

Senator Griff, pursuant to notice, moved general business notice of motion no. 1428—That the Senate—

               (a)       notes that:

                                     (i)       on 12 February 2019, the Senate made an order for the production of documents relating to the Universal Service Obligation (USO),

                                    (ii)       the documents requested included:

                                                       (A)       the high-level cost modelling of the USO reform options, and

                                                        (B)       the advice provided by NBN Co about the financial costs of servicing additional ADSL customers,

                                  (iii)       the documents were sought in the context of critical reports on the USO and the reduction in the number of pay phones nationally, and the annual payments made to Telstra to maintain services under the current USO arrangements, and

                                  (iv)       the Federal Government does not intend to change the current USO arrangements, despite the continued decline of payphone usage in Australia;

               (b)       further notes that:

                                     (i)       on 14 February 2019, the Minister for Communications and the Arts (the Minister) advanced a public interest immunity claim on the grounds that releasing the cost modelling could significantly compromise potential negotiations with industry in future,

                                    (ii)       the Minister refused to release NBN Co’s advice on the basis that it could prejudice it in future commercial dealings, and

                                  (iii)       no documents have been tabled;

                (c)       does not accept that the order for the production of documents made on 12 February 2019 has been adequately dealt with, insofar as the material requested would include information that is not commercially sensitive;

               (d)       does not accept that public interest immunity has been appropriately advanced, and calls on the Minister to review the nature of the documents ordered on 12 February 2019 and apply a higher test of ‘real risk’ rather than hypothesised risk; and

                (e)       orders that there be laid on the table by the Minister for Communications and the Arts, by midday on 5 April 2019, the documents requested on 12 February 2019 which do not impinge on commercial sensitivities.

Statement by leave : The Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific (Senator Ruston), by leave, made a statement relating to the motion.

Question put and passed.