Senate passes NBN legislation after last-minute negotiations

28 Mar 2011

Australia’s Senate, having extended its last sitting of the parliamentary session in the wake of a number of last-minute changes to proposed legislation related by the government to the country’s in-development National Broadband Network (NBN), has passed the new laws, albeit after a number of concessions were made. According to The Australian, the government successfully negotiated a last-minute deal with a number of key Senate members in order to pass the NBN Companies and Access Arrangements bills, with a number of concessions made. Under the terms of the newly revised legislation NBN Co, the public-private company set up to oversee the construction and management of the NBN, will no longer be able to offer discounts to larger customers, such as fixed line incumbent Telstra. In addition, the state also agreed to review whether NBN Co is effectively complying with freedom of information laws after a year has passed, after the Greens put forward such a proposal, while another notable part of the agreement struck between crossbenchers and the government saw the reinstating of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC’s) power to scrutinise key design and service elements of the network.

Members of the lower house of parliament are now due to be called back for a special sitting of Parliament on Monday to pass the changes into law.

Commenting on the development communications minister Stephen Conroy said that the passing of the bills was a ‘historic milestone’, noting: ‘The bills set out a clear regulatory framework to provide that NBN Co will operate on a wholesale-only, open and equivalent access basis, delivering long-term benefits for competition and consumers.’

Australia, NBN Co