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Greens win NBN transparency compromise from Government

Greens win NBN transparency compromise from Government

NBN Co set to be treated the same as any other Government enterprise in terms of FoI scrutiny

The Australian Greens have successfully negotiated more NBN Co transparency from the Government, which had planned to exempt it from Freedom of Information requests.

The deal means the company responsible for rolling out the National Broadband Network, NBN Co, will now have to respond to FoI requests in the same way as other Government organisations.

“We’ve managed to put NBN Co in the same place as the CSIRO, Medibank and Australia Post,” Australian Greens communications spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam, told ARN. “I rate [the chances of the amendments passing] as reasonably high.

“It’s a pretty sensible reform that probably should’ve been in there in the first place. I struggle to contemplate someone coming up with a good counter argument.”

But NBN Co can still refuse to release information if it is of a sensitive commercial nature. Such information could include how much NBN Co is willing to pay for construction and services.

Critics have argued this will allow NBN Co to block a wide variety of information using “commercial sensitive” as a catch-all excuse – a concern shared by Ludlam.

“That is a risk not just with NBN Co but more broadly and I think we’re at risk of having that defence used to override the public interest,” he said. “But I do agree that with issues of cabinet confidentiality, national security and some issues of commercial sensitivity it should be out of bounds in order to protect taxpayer investments.”

According to Ludlam, the Greens had spoken with key independent cross-benchers in the House of Representatives and the Senate needed to pass the amended legislation. But he added they were yet to decide if they’d support it.

The Greens began their push for FoI changes in January this year. Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, had defended reducing NBN Co's transparency at the time.

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Tags nbn coSenator Stephen ConroyNational Broadband Network (NBN)GreensSenator Scott LudlamSteve FieldingNick XenophonFreedom of Information (FOI) laws

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