NBN bills pass af­ter marathon sitting

Townsville Bulletin - - National Snapshot -

NA­TIONAL broad-band net­work bills have passed the Se­nate af­ter a marathon sitting last night.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Stephen Con­roy threw par­lia­ment into dis­ar­ray by in­tro­duc­ing 35 amend­ments to an ac­cess ar­range­ments bill but just af­ter 8.30pm the Se­nate voted 34 to 32 to pass two key NBN bills, with the Aus­tralian Greens and cross- bench sen­a­tors Nick Xenophon and Steve Field­ing sid­ing with La­bor.

In a state­ment, Sen­a­tor Con­roy said the pas­sage of amend­ments cov­er­ing na­tional whole sale pric­ing would trans­late into affordable re­tail prices for high­speed broad­band ‘‘ for all Aus­tralians no mat­ter where they live’’.

‘ ‘ Pas­sage of t hese bills fur­ther un­der pins the Gil­lard gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy to de­liver struc­tural re­form of the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­dus­try to pro­mote, for the first time, sus­tain­able re­taillevel competition,’’ he said.

His me­dia re­lease failed to men­tion how ear­lier in the day, the min­is­ter took is­sue with Na­tional Se­nate leader Barn­aby Joyce’s call for unit pric­ing reg­u­la­tions so satel­lite and wire­less ser­vices in re­mote ar­eas could be de- liv­ered at the same price as high-speed op­ti­cal fi­bres in ma­jor cities.

Lower house MPs are now due back in Can­berra on Mon­day to con­sider the bills.

Op­po­si­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tions spokesman Mal­colm Turn­bull said Sen­a­tor Con­roy cre­ated an enor­mous leg­isla­tive chal­lenge.

‘‘ This is a big deal but the gov­ern­ment is mak­ing it up as it goes along,’’ he said.

Stephen Con­roy

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