THE Rudd Government will next month try to lock Parliament in to approving the sale of its new broadband company by 2022 in a bid to avoid a repeat of the bitter Senate debates over the privatisation of Telstra.
In an interview with the Herald, the Broadband and Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, revealed the legislation to set up the company will also prevent the government from keeping it in majority public ownership.
“We’re legislating that sell-down provision. It will be a mandatory requirement to do it,” he said.
But how can the federal government legislate effectively to make it “mandatory”? Can Federal Parliament constitutionally entrench ordinary legislation using “manner and form” requirements? How else could it prevent some future government from taking a different view? Do these sorts of assertions square with responsible government or other norms of liberal democratic constitutionalism, or is just empty political rhetoric?