Gillard promises independents briefing by NBN Co chief

The news came yesterday as one of the independents, Tony Windsor, yesterday fired a warning shot across the Government's bow on the matter of broadband

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has invited the group of three returning independent MPs to meet directly with NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley, as the trio continue to push for more information about Labor's National Broadband Network policy.

Rob Oakeshott, Bob Katter and Tony Windsor are at the heart of complex negotiations with Labor and the Coalition as they decide which side they will support to form Government.

In a letter to each side this week (the letter in full has been published by the Australian as a PDF), the trio had asked for access to information under the Caretaker Conventions from various government departments, including a briefing directly with the secretary of the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Peter Harris.

The trio also asked for briefings from caretaker Ministers and Shadow Ministers in a range of areas -- which would include Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and his Shadow, Tony Smith.

Gillard wrote (PDF) that she was predisposed to assist with the requests and the ministers -- which would include Conroy -- would be made available.. However she made some additions.

"With respect to your keen interest in broadband, would you like a briefing with the chief executive office and director of NBN Co, Mr Mike Quigley?" Gillard wrote. "He would be best placed to provide you with the technical information on aspects of the NBN -- including the roll-out and other information you may be seeking."

The news came yesterday as one of the independents, Tony Windsor, yesterday fired a warning shot across the Government's bow on the matter of broadband, noting he didn't believe the $43 billion cost figure that Labor has long applied to the NBN policy was accurate.

"This $43 billion figure that gets bandied about -- I haven't seen the real trail that ends up with that number, and in fact I think it's a fictitious number," he said in a National Press Club broadcast. "We want to find out what the real one is, and there should be a trail that leads us to that."

The full broadcast is available online on ABC's iView platform.

The group of independents has previously indicated that telecommunications would be one area that it was particularly looking at -- with the privatisation of Telstra having been flagged as an issue.

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