Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010
Consideration in Detail
I was very interested to hear the honourable minister quoting Allan Fels in endorsing the arrangements with the NBN, so he suggested. Because I had my trusty wireless iPad here, I was quickly able to discover that he was in fact giving an entirely misleading account of an interview Allan Fels gave to Inside Business on 4 October 2009. He quoted a little bit, as he often does, which was out of context. Allan Fels welcomed the changes to access legislation but then Allan Fels went on in this interview to say:
There are a lot of tricky questions; are we going to restructure Telstra now once and then soon after maybe restructure it again for the NBN?
ALAN KOHLER: What because the NBN will be a monopoly?
ALLAN FELS: Well, that’s a further concern. Obviously I would be quite concerned if all the main players now like Telstra and Optus and everyone got into the NBN and it had monopoly power. That is a real dilemma.
So, far from giving this a tick, Allan Fels was expressing exactly the same reservations that we have had about the monopoly power, and the minister and Independent members may want to reflect that the minister chose to quote selectively from that interview in a way to create a misleading impression of what Allan Fels’s views were.
Finally, we get back to this fundamental issue of competition and how important it is. The reality is that this will be a monopoly provider of fixed line services to the home. We have expressed concern about it, the OECD has expressed concern about it, telcos have expressed concern about it—there is real concern right across the board. Even Paul Budde, who is a real enthusiast for the NBN and a man that I do not think has ever agreed with me in his life, I saw was complaining that the plan for the points of interconnect was offensive because it reeked of the exercise of monopoly power. There are real competition issues here. We cannot kid ourselves. We cannot turn a blind eye to this, and that is why this deal, this transaction, should be subject to the jurisdiction of the ACCC and the provisions of section 51 of the Trade Practices Act.
That the amendments (Mr Turnbull’s) be agreed to.