Thursday, 25 November 2010
Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010
Actually I was not reading off a sheet. Technically, the reference to the clause is in fact as Senator Joyce describes. So thank you for that clarification. I was not reading from a sheet when I mentioned that. I think I had the numbers right but slightly in the wrong order, so I would like to offer my second big thank you to Senator Joyce today. I have already thanked Senator Joyce for letting the cat out of the bag on why we are enduring this persistent opposition to these bills. Now, as we can see, there is persistent moving of amendments that are no longer relevant, because the government has actually resolved the problems that the amendments seek to fix. So, Senator Joyce, I feel completely indebted to you now for helping us out with this and for making it clear to the Australian people that of course it is not about telecommunications; it is about political tactics.
For the National Party this is a particularly painful scenario, because the role the National Party played previously was very much one of trying to hold the Liberal Party to account on telecommunications issues. Why? Well, quite correctly there was a sensitivity to the poor performance of the telecommunications industry in regional Australia, the constituency the National Party claims to represent. So, right up until the minority Gillard Labor government was elected, the National Party at least pretended to play a constructive role in trying to argue for greater services to regional constituents and to regional citizens in the area of telecommunications.
They invested in the Page report, which went through a series of propositions, including addressing the very important issue of—guess what—structural separation as one of the solutions necessary to resolve the ongoing anticompetitive conduct of the residual monopolist, Telstra, in the marketplace. Do we hear any references to this research, invested in by the National Party, that they found so compelling then and have so walked away from now? Absolutely not. Why not? Because, as far as they are concerned, the political tactic is far more important than the policy and the issue of substance.
We have seen unprecedented behaviour in the chamber this morning. Procedural cycle after procedural cycle of motions was used to delay the beginning of this debate. We have heard contributions from coalition senators who clearly have not constructed an adequate brief, or briefing notes, from their opposition, so they were unable to consistently convey the position of the opposition through the course of the debate. We find ourselves none the wiser as to what the coalition actually wants to do, except oppose, obfuscate, block, deny—