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Australian opposition concerned over TV tender

Thursday 11 Aug 2011
The Australian opposition is pushing for a full investigation of government interference in the public tender for Australia’s A$223 million (US$228 million) official overseas television service, The Age reports.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop last night said the government’s excuses for making late changes to the bidding rules to run the service, known as Australia Network, were implausible and said an investigation would need to look into any conflict of interest in the role of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

She confirmed the opposition was considering a call for a probe by the Commonwealth Auditor-General into the handling of the fiercely fought tender between the publicly funded ABC and Sky News Australia, part-owned by Rupert Murdoch.

”We’re looking at a range of options, and that’s one available to us,” Ms Bishop told The Age.

”I have concerns about the probity of this tender and the fact that ministerial responsibility was stripped from (Foreign Minister) Kevin Rudd and handed to Stephen Conroy mid-way through.”

The ruling Labour Party made the changes to rules regarding the initial tender process in June and sidelined the findings of an independent panel that called for the contract to be awarded to Sky.

Senator Conroy’s office has previously denied any conflict.

The government cited uprisings in the Arab world to again open the tender after a 2 May deadline for a decision had passed, with the ABC and Sky last month submitting fresh bids.