Queensland Nationals Senator Ron Boswell today challenged the Communications Minister to extend the deadline for the $4.7 Billion taxpayer funded National Broadband Network proposals to allow competitors more time to deliver a value for money project.
Speaking on legislation that will force Telstra to release vital technical information to its rivals, Senator Boswell said "If they don't get this tender process right, then we are going to be in serious trouble."
"I'm concerned that even if this legislation is rushed through with the greatest of efficiency it will only give competitors two months to gain information required and put forward a reasonable bid on such a major telecommunications infrastructure process as this."
"Companies would find it impossible to put forward a decent tender in only two months."
"It takes two or three weeks even to put in a bid for something simple, and here we are faced with the most complex bid, on the most complex piece of infrastructure ever to be introduced in Australia, and the minister thinks he can do it in two months," Senator Boswell said.
"You do not just go and buy a network off the shelf. It has to be designed. It has to be structured. The minimum it will cost is $4.7 Billion. It will probably go to $11 Billion when the telcos put in their money."
"You cannot just design and put forward a tender to the government in two months, and you certainly cannot do it if you do not have the information."
"I want to know whether the two months you (the Minister) are allowing for this bid is just some sort of window dressing to say, 'I tried and the G9 couldn't put in a competitive bid because I did not give them time. But I tried. I was tough; I even threatened Telstra and I even moved legislation.'"
"If the Minister was serious about competition, and serious about having a network with competition in it, then he has to realise his first port of call should be one of the engineers in his department. He should ask him: 'What is a reasonable time to design a network right across Australia that will deliver broadband to 98 per cent of the people?'"
"If this highly qualified engineer is right, honest, and prepared to give strong advice then I am sure he would say: 'Minister, I don't think two months is time enough to deliver such an intricate piece of infrastructure.'"
Senator Boswell told the Senate, "We have to question your motive, Minister. Are you making sure that your mates in Telstra are going to get this bid? Are you being fair dinkum? I say that because you were very, very close to Telstra in the last election – in fact, it was almost on your campaign team."