Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010
Consideration in Detail
The government opposes these amendments to the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010 and we do so for very good and practical reasons. These amendments moved by the coalition relate to spectrum and undertakings about hybrid fibre coaxial networks and subscription television broadcasting licences. The shadow minister referred to these provisions as the so-called “guns to Telstra’s head”. The coalition’s amendments are not necessary as the so-called “guns to Telstra’s head” have been removed in the bill. There is no longer an automatic prohibition on the acquisition of spectrum if Telstra does not structurally separate and divest its interest in its HFC network and Foxtel. The bill has been amended to give Telstra sufficient regulatory certainty to take a firm proposal to its shareholders to structurally separate by allowing Telstra to acquire specified bands of spectrum unless the minister determines in a legislative instrument otherwise. The bill also does not require Telstra to divest its interest in Foxtel, but still provides a framework for Telstra to voluntarily divest its interest in Foxtel and its hybrid fibre coaxial cable network. In the event that Telstra does not proceed with structural separation, the minister could take into account Telstra’s ownership of Foxtel and HFC networks in determining whether to use the powers in the bill to prevent Telstra from acquiring certain spectrum to address Telstra’s power in telecommunications markets.
I find it somewhat extraordinary that here we have a situation where Telstra itself, the company, is no longer out there campaigning saying, ‘This is a big priority, we’ve got to remove these provisions from the bill,’ and yet the opposition seem determined to continue to persist with trying to remove these provisions, the excluded spectrum regime, from this legislation. Frankly, it defies logic when the company involved, whilst of course it would like to operate in a way which was free of constraints on regulation, as most corporate entities would in an ideal world for them, has accepted that the government have acted responsibly in forwarding this amended piece of legislation before the House. I therefore urge the parliament to reject these coalition amendments to this important piece of legislation that is before the House.