LEGISLATION to split Telstra could be stalled until late August, possibly exposing it to a federal election, unless the bill is given priority next week.Federal Parliament has four sitting days left before an eight-week winter break begins. Parliament resumes on August 24, but the government could call an election before that date.As the federal Opposition has promised to scrap the national broadband network and abandon the legislation to structurally separate Telstra, this would make telecommunications a key election issue.The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill has passed the House of Representatives and the Senate committee process, but the second reading has been adjourned four times.The proposed change gives the government authority to prevent Telstra from buying the wireless spectrum it needs to offer new mobile phone services, unless it separates its wholesale and retail companies and sells a 50 per cent stake in Foxtel. The government still needs to persuade two independent senators and five Greens senators to vote for the bill.A spokeswoman for the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, said the government hoped the bill would reach debate next week.”Passing the bill and delivering the important consumer reforms it contains remains a priority. There are always challenges with the Senate legislative program, with so many important bills to be considered.”The bill was fifth on Monday’s agenda, but a spokesman for the Family First senator Steve Fielding said it was unlikely to reach debate. Senator Fielding had yet to be contacted by either of the two main parties and he usually received calls lobbying his vote days before a bill was debated, the spokesman said.The Greens senator Scott Ludlam said the delay affected the government’s talks with Telstra over its role in the national broadband network. ”The effect [of delay] is we have negotiations going on with no legislative framework and no accountability.”A select committee report on the network tabled yesterday reiterated calls for a cost-benefit analysis, and recommended that an offer by Professor Henry Ergas to conduct the analysis free be accepted.”The lack of such an analysis remains a significant barrier to being able to assess whether the project will provide value for taxpayers’ money,” the report said.”The committee believes the public are not in a position to test whether the government’s NBN project is the most appropriate model for delivering effective, affordable broadband services to Australians.”❏ Telstra issued $150 million worth of 10-year bonds yesterday, its first domestic issuance since 2006. The issuance was led by National Australia Bank and sold at 7.75 per cent at $99.47.
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