Thursday, 22 October 2009
Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009
Why not? I do not see that as an issue at all here. What I see as an issue is that we have an opportunity to put in place a system that can really put this country upfront and we are having these sideline political debates to try and delay it. Some people are suggesting that this does need to be delayed whilst the government’s $25 million implementation plan is put together. That has nothing to do with this bill. Some people are saying, ‘Let’s wait; let’s wait; let’s wait.’ It has nothing to do with this particular piece of legislation. What that will do is allow Telstra, and the camp followers who are in this building, to work a lather of sweat up into a campaign, some of which involves the shareholders, some of which involves this so-called ‘socialist’ policy they can see taking over the corporate sector. Telstra have had plenty of opportunities to be involved in the service delivery end of the business, particularly, in the electorate I represent, in the smaller communities. They know that they have had that monopoly power to keep others out of some sectors of the business area as well. So I would encourage country members in particular to think about their constituents in relation to this and put aside the politics of ‘the Labor Party is bringing in a scheme that is going to revolutionise broadband communications’.
The National Party, I am told, have been told by Senator Minchin and others that this particular bill reduces the universal service obligation. Talking to some people who should know, I am being told that the bill actually strengthens it. Those who are suggesting that it weakens it are going to have to articulate that position. Maybe the shadow minister will articulate where it is actually weakened. But I think anybody who has followed the debate in the past would fully recognise that Telstra, being the monopoly player, particularly in country areas, even though there was a degree of regulation virtually wrote their own USO. If I am incorrect there, I am quite willing to apologise to anyone I have offended. Someone might indicate that that was not the case. What this bill actually allows is the public, through their elected officials, to dictate the universal service obligation—not the monopoly corporate player. I think that is a significant benefit as well.
In conclusion, I think it is time that all country members stood up and supported this legislation. If this runs into the second half of next year and gets embroiled in the election period again we run the risk of missing the opportunity to have these services rolled out. I know there are some bits and pieces that do need tidying up, but I think we really need to get behind the process to have the National Broadband Network rolled out right across Australia.