House debates

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010

Consideration in Detail

6:17 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the House) Share this | Hansard source

The member for Wentworth says that the competition issues ‘cannot be brushed aside’. This is extraordinary from a political organisation, the coalition, which privatised Telstra without protecting competition, choice or service delivery, including in the bush. This is what Allan Fels said about competition and this legislation when he was asked about whether this legislation is a victory for the ACCC. He said this:

Yes and for consumer. This had to happen. The access law was very weak and it was introduced at a time when the government wanted to privatise Telstra, so it made it weak and kept it weak. And so the true objectives of policy weren’t achieved.

That is what Allan Fels had to say. He knows something about competition across the board. This is a coalition that took a public monopoly, turned it into a private monopoly and called it reform, at the expense of Australian consumers. So let us have none of this nonsense from those opposite about competition.

But you do not have to go to Allan Fels. This is what the now member for Bradfield had to say about competition in his book Wired Brown Land? I quote Paul Fletcher in that book:

In fixed-line telecommunications today we have the equivalent of Qantas owning all the airports. The result: competition is weak.

That is what the bloke who sits up the back—who gets questions on the NBN because the tactics committee do not want to give the member for Wentworth too many questions during question time—their expert, had to say about competition and their performance in government. So let us have none of this nonsense.

There were a range of issues raised that simply are not correct. The member for Wentworth has argued that prices on NBN will increase, but NBN Co. prices will be subject to ACCC regulation. Let us make that very clear: they will be subject to ACCC regulation. He quotes the OECD report. This is what the OECD report had to say about competition:

Calling the dominant operator’s vertical integration into question is also welcome, as it will stimulate competition in the DSL Internet sector, and it can be expected to yield substantial benefits …

The report went on specifically to talk about the fact that the market alone simply would not deliver the best outcome. It said that the NBN ‘will avoid the risk of a geographic digital divide as it will cover the entire population, whereas if it were done by the private sector it would be done more gradually and only to the most densely populated areas.’ My electorate would benefit. Wentworth would benefit. Lyne and New England would get done over.

That is the reality. It is that simple. And we know that that is the case. That is the way the market operates, not because Telstra’s board are good or bad people but because that is their fiduciary obligation: to maximise their return for shareholders. But the interests of the Australian public are different. There is a national interest here, a national interest test, and that is what the legislation before us here does.

The member for Lyne also raised the issue of NBN Co.’s corporate plan. As he knows, the company submitted the plan to the government just last week. The government is currently considering the document and will make a range of information from it publicly available in due course. NBN Co.’s business study confirms the findings of the implementation study—despite using different assumptions—that the NBN can be built on a financially viable basis with affordable prices for consumers.

The real issue here was perhaps best summed up by the member for Wentworth when he said:

The NBN is the answer to a problem that has not even been identified …

Well, if you do not know what the problem is, it is not surprising that you have no idea about what the solution is. The solution, moving forward, is this legislation. It should be supported and the amendments should be rejected.


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