Thursday, 25 November 2010
Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010
Thank you, Madam Temporary Chair, I do appreciate the tact with which you chair the committee and the guidance you have given to speakers in this debate in such a fine professional fashion. The point I was developing was that the debates in the telecommunications area, having to do with ABC, spectrum, SBS, the privatisation of Telstra and a range of other matters in those days, were long technical debates. The distinction between the persons who participated in those debates in those days and those who participate on the part of the opposition today—mainly new, it must be conceded—was that in those days we had a clear view of the role of public policy and a clear view of the role of public enterprise fitting within a market economy in bringing benefits and concessions to those who most needed them in rural and regional Australia.
Today, when one considers the range of contributions that senators from Western Australia and New South Wales have made in debating the amendments before the chair, the one clear and salient factor that every speaker from the opposition has chosen to avoid—for reasons that are not clear to me—is that when this bill goes through we will have the structural separation of Telstra into retail and wholesale, and broadband will be laid out to Australian homes in the most cost-effective manner. We will have coverage from the most modern communications technology for something like 96 or 97 per cent of the Australian population.
Senator Back tried to make a big deal about there being a limited number of towns in Western Australia with populations of fewer than 1,000 that would not immediately benefit from the spread of the new broadband network. The fact is—and this needs to be put on the record—that something like 96 per cent of the population of the state of Western Australia will have immediate and improved access to the most modern telecommunications when the fibre is laid to their homes. You cannot ask for a better benefit than that: 96 per cent of the population will have the most modern communications system connected to their homes.
There was some commentary earlier that people on that side, I suspect, were trying to filibuster and delay debate for reasons not clear to me, but I am happy to surrender and let others on that side perhaps raise new and additional points that we can consider in due course, because that is clearly their intent. They do not want to waste time and we do not want to waste time. I have only spoken for five minutes and I would be happy to resume in the debate later—I have one or two other points to raise—but at the moment I am happy to surrender.