NBN bills pass after marathon sitting
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.