Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010
Consideration in Detail
I want to put on record some views on these amendments. I accept the government’s position on them. I do that as a lover of competition and a lover of the role that the ACCC plays in regulating the market mechanisms in place in many Australian marketplaces. I also make the point that this does not reflect poorly at all, in my view, on that much overused and almost cliched statement, ‘the new paradigm’. We can in this place legislate and/or regulate anywhere on anything at any time, to steal a line from the Goodies. Our moving for structural separation long after the initial restructure and privatisation of Telstra is an example of how, if there is a need in the future to address issues to do with increasing competition and producing better national interest outcome, we as parliamentarians can do so. We are not losing that right by either supporting or rejecting changes to parliamentary disallowance periods. The issue here is one that was addressed to my satisfaction by the response just given by the minister. On this particular suite of amendments I will again stick with the government. But I will make two points under the theme of competition, because that is at the heart of what the shadow minister is trying to achieve.
I would love to have at my disposal, right here right now, a business case from NBN Co. It is unfortunate that we are having this debate as legislators who are trying to make decisions about issues such as competition while deep in the bowels of government, despite nearly two months of public rhetoric saying that a business case would be available, it remains unavailable to us as legislators. I think it is disappointing, when this first piece of legislation is coming up that is relevant to decisions for all of us about the detail of the concept of national broadband, that we do not have that business case available so that we can make decisions based on merit. I understand what a big document it is, and I understand that it would take time to read and consider it. I understand the processes of government, I understand the processes of cabinet, but if we are going to invest in the new working parliament then that needs to be considered as a valued part of the processes of government. If we are going to make decisions, particularly on the crossbenches in a tight parliament, then we need to be given the opportunity to make those decisions on merit. On this particular issue of competition, it was very difficult to make that decision without that business case from NBN Co. at our disposal. So, taking the opportunity to put on the record my thoughts on this amendment, I also ask the government to expedite the business plan. It is necessary for the public debate to be a real debate and for truth to be separated from fiction.
The other point I make about accountability to drive competition is that we are all struggling with the issue of a Telstra deal being done at the front end that will be presented to shareholders at the back end, with a legislative reform package in the middle. That is a challenge. It would be valuable to receive as much help from government as possible by making as much information available as possible on what the deal was at the front end and what will be presented to shareholders at the back end to achieve the right outcome. (Time expired)