Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010
Consideration in Detail
The government will be opposing these amendments. We oppose them for good reason. Firstly, with regard to the issue of the Competition and Consumer Act, the proposed amendment is simply unnecessary. The bill already provides the ACCC with powers to scrutinise the Telstra and NBN Co. agreement when it considers Telstra’s structural separation undertaking. So it is already there. This is entirely appropriate, as it removes any need for a separate authorisation inquiry, while still ensuring that there is appropriate scrutiny by the ACCC of the arrangements between Telstra and NBN Co. The conduct that could require authorisation includes the decommissioning of the copper network, the progressive migration of customers to the National Broadband Network and the restriction on the use of Telstra’s hybrid fibre-coaxial cable network. The bill is designed to provide proper competitive scrutiny but also to provide the confidence that is necessary for Telstra to get on with the job. The fact is that those opposite say that they do not have any disagreement with this—or some of them do; the member for Wentworth says that he kind of gets it that broadband is pretty important but it is good enough if you live in his electorate. But he does not then take that to its logical conclusion, because he moves amendments that would simply destroy the ability of the National Broadband Network to move forward.
The second issue which has been raised is whether the ministerial direction to the ACCC should be disallowable by parliament. The government’s strong view is that the risk of disallowance and of this opposition playing politics with this issue would cause uncertainty for Telstra to structurally separate. What the opposition are putting up is actually a barrier to reform. Structural separation is in the national interest. The opposition’s proposal undermines the full structural separation of Telstra. Under the Legislative Instruments Act 2003, there are three key requirements that apply to legislative instruments: they are subject to parliamentary disallowance; they are published on the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments to ensure their availability to the public and industry; and they are subject to sunsetting after 10 years. Sunsetting is not of relevance here, as each of the instruments in question will cease to have effect before the 10-year period provided for. For most of the instruments in question, there is a requirement for publication on the department’s website, meaning publication on the register is not necessary. In each case, there are sound reasons for not making these instruments subject to parliamentary disallowance. That is why we are opposed to these amendments.
It is very clear that the opposition, in moving these amendments, are once again doing everything they can to stop the National Broadband Network being able to move forward, to stop structural separation actually occurring, even though they acknowledge how important it is. I ask the House to reject the amendments moved by the member for Wentworth.