Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi is set to introduce two key motions into the Senate today, which are expected to pass with the support of Palmer United Party (PUP) senators.
The motions will see the current Senate Select Committee on the NBN, currently made up of seven senators (three Coalition, three Labor and one Greens), disbanded and replaced by a Joint Select Committee to be made up of nine senators (five Coalition, three Labor and one minor party member).
The Joint Select Committee will be tasked with monitoring the NBN rollout and the company’s financial and operational performance. The new committee will feature a heavy skew of Coalition senators compared to the previous committee in which the lone Greens senator held the balance of power.
“Malcolm Turnbull is trying to kill scrutiny of the NBN. Regardless of what you think about the NBN, this is the biggest infrastructure project in Australia.” says Greens Senator Scott Ludlam.
Read more from The Age.
The introduction of the new Senate on 1 July 2014 has seen a radical shift in the balance of power. Unlike before when the Greens held the balance of power in the senate, it is now the Palmer United Party (PUP) which decides whether the Coalition gains the support needed to pass a motion.
This Coalition Government seems hell-bent on denying the public information on important programs or projects in an effort to control scrutiny. The Government’s lack of disclosure on all fronts with the current asylum seeker situation at sea is disgraceful, as it has taken action by the high court for information to reach the public. It is clear for all to see that, with the motion today, the Coalition is stacking the committee with Coalition senators. A biased committee such as this will rob the inquiry of any integrity and will most likely kill any scrutiny on the NBN due to a lack of disclosure of information.
Democracy is based on checks and balances. Such committees serve a purpose; for members of different parties to collaborate, share their ideas and work together to improve and report on projects which are important to Australia’s future. The NBN may just be our biggest and most importantly infrastructure project of the decade and we cannot afford for it to be run under cloak-and-dagger techniques.
What do you think? Should every inquiry be made up of an equal number of senators from the major parties and at least one from a minor party? Is the Abbott Government attempting to avoid scrutiny of the NBN rollout?