House debates

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010

Consideration in Detail

6:53 pm

Photo of Michelle RowlandMichelle Rowland (Greenway, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Madam Deputy Speaker Burke, through you to the member for Lyne: it is not too late to change your mind. With the deepest sincerity I take on board everything that the member for Lyne has said—I love competition too. I know that the words ‘merits review’ and ‘procedural fairness’ in telco sound great, they sound just and they sound like the right thing to do but, as a practitioner in this area and having seen what happens, I can assure you, paradoxically, it is the exact opposite.

The member for Wentworth talked about merits review only being able to be decided on the documents that are put before the ACCC. That amendment came in in 2002. I will tell you what happened then because I was part of it. You had truckloads of documents. You had discovery that went into whole floors of office blocks because everyone knew they had to get every single document down, otherwise they would not be able to introduce it. The only people who made any money from this were the people paying my rent. The only people who made any money from this were the lawyers.

The member for Wentworth talks about time limits. I promise you that they are always extended. It is the cumulative effect of these delays; it is not just a simple delay. It is not saying that it is going to be delayed for a week. PSTN pricing was clogged-up in the Australian Competition Tribunal for years, which meant that consumers in the member for Lyne’s electorate and in my electorate did not have lower prices.

There was a review in 2000 by the Productivity Commission culminating in the 2002 competition amendments. The biggest thing that review examined and got the most support from—from everyone but Telstra—was the need to remove merits review. The amount of time that was being taken up by cases going into the Competition Tribunal meant that consumers were not getting the benefits of lower prices. Merits review and telco regulation has been widely discredited—


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