Reports today that the Senate has passed a motion calling for the immediate release of the NBN Co Business Plan while the Prime Minister has noted that the Government at least needs to decide if there is information that shouldn't be released. More on the last point later.
It is the basis of the argument I dispute. The coalition would NEVER support a motion that any business was required to publish its whole business plan, even though that plan spends "shareholder money". The way we "protect" shareholder interests is requiring the management to provide the plan to the Board as representatives of shareholders.
This raises the ultimate question, is the Parliament the representative of the people or is the Government the representative? The short and practical answer is actually that it is the Government. The annual budget and estimates process is only conducted at the level of high level measures, there is no detailed scrutiny.
The current motion also includes a confusion of whether what has been delivered is a business plan or a business case. The former is a document that covers all the activities of a company for a defined period. Usually the period is three years but it may be five.
A business case is a study of the whole returns of a specific (investment) proposal. That would be about the commercial return over the whole project (which is still different to a cost-benefit analysis).
That raises the important question of why the first business plan is particularly of interest. Surely the issue should be about what the level of disclosure should be on all future business plan submissions. As I've written elsewhere this is an issue for the NBN Co legislation.
The only potentially valid criticism of the Government is that the NBN Co legislation hasn't yet been introduced. However, the Minister and Government have the perfect defence in the obstructionism thus far deployed by the Parliament, including the entirely pointless NBN select committee.
If Senator Ludlum wants to make his name as a champion for open and transparent government he needs to learn to do it by addressing substantive change to legislation and not engaging in the kind of stunts that we have seen pulled so far.
Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est