Senate debates

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010

In Committee

4:29 pm

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I move opposition amendments (1) to (17), (24), (33) to (40), (43), (45) to (57), (64) and (65) together:

(1)    Schedule 1, before item 1, page 4 (line 5), omit the heading (Act name).

(2)    Schedule 1, items 1 to 5, page 4 (lines 6 to 24), items TO BE OPPOSED.

(3)    Schedule 1, item 6, page 5 (lines 2 to 5), item TO BE OPPOSED.

(4)    Schedule 1, items 11 to 15, page 5 (line 22) to page 6 (line 19), items TO BE OPPOSED.

(5)    Schedule 1, item 17, page 6 (lines 27 and 28), omit “, 577CD or 577ED”.

(6)    Schedule 1, item 17, page 6 (lines 29 and 30), omit the note, substitute:

Note:   Section 577AD deals with an undertaking given by Telstra.

(7)    Schedule 1, item 18, page 7 (lines 1 to 6), item TO BE OPPOSED.

(8)    Schedule 1, item 19, page 7 (lines 10 and 11), omit “, 577CD or 577ED”.

(9)    Schedule 1, item 19, page 7 (lines 12 and 13), omit the note, substitute:

Note:   Section 577AD deals with an undertaking given by Telstra.

(10)  Schedule 1, item 21, page 7 (lines 18 to 23), item TO BE OPPOSED.

(11)  Schedule 1, item 22, page 7 (lines 27 and 28), omit “, 577CD or 577ED”.

(12)  Schedule 1, item 23, page 7 (lines 31 and 32), omit the note, substitute:

Note 1A:              Section 577AD deals with an undertaking given by Telstra.

(13)  Schedule 1, items 24 and 25, page 8 (lines 1 to 8), items TO BE OPPOSED.

(14)  Schedule 1, item 26, page 8 (lines 12 and 13), omit “, 577CD or 577ED”.

(15)  Schedule 1, item 27, page 8 (lines 16 and 17), omit the note, substitute:

Note 1A:              Section 577AD deals with an undertaking given by Telstra.

(16)  Schedule 1, items 28 and 29, page 8 (lines 18 to 25), items TO BE OPPOSED.

(17)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 9 (lines 5 to 24), omit section 577, substitute:

577  Simplified outline

                 The following is a simplified outline of this Part:

                 - Telstra may give an undertaking about structural separation.

                 - The undertaking comes into force when it is accepted by the ACCC.

(24)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 14 (lines 32 and 33), omit subparagraphs 577AA(1)(c)(vii) and (viii).

(33)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 35 (line 26) to page 44 (line 24), Divisions 3 and 4 TO BE OPPOSED.

(34)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 44 (line 29), omit “, 577C or 577E”.

(35)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 46 (line 4) to page 52 (line 2), Division 6 TO BE OPPOSED.

(36)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 52 (line 7), omit paragraph 577M(1)(a).

(37)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 52 (line 8), omit “another”, substitute “a”.

(38)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 53 (line 20), after “control of”, insert “a telecommunications network if”.

(39)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 53 (lines 21 and 22), omit paragraphs 577Q(1)(a) and (b).

(40)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 53 (line 23), omit “if:”.

(43)  Schedule 1, item 31, page 70 (line 18) to page 75 (line 28), Part 10 TO BE OPPOSED.

(45)  Schedule 1, item 36, page 76 (line 16), omit “, 577C or 577E”.

(46)  Schedule 1, item 36, page 76 (line 18), omit “Note 1”, substitute “Note”.

(47)  Schedule 1, item 36, page 76 (lines 20 to 23), omit notes 2 and 3.

(48)  Schedule 1, item 38, page 77 (line 7), omit “, 577C or 577E”.

(49)  Schedule 1, item 39, page 77 (line 17), omit “, 577C or 577E”.

(50)  Schedule 1, item 39, page 77 (line 19), omit “Note 1”, substitute “Note”.

(51)  Schedule 1, item 39, page 77 (lines 21 to 24), omit notes 2 and 3.

(52)  Schedule 1, item 74, page 87 (line 26), omit “, 577C or 577E”.

(53)  Schedule 1, item 93, page 94 (line 7), omit “, 577C or 577E”.

(54)  Schedule 1, item 96, page 95 (line 12), omit “, 577C or 577E”.

(55)  Schedule 1, item 102, page 96 (line 13), omit “, 577C or 577E”.

(56)  Schedule 1, item 107, page 97 (line 28), omit “, 577C or 577E”.

(57)  Schedule 1, item 113, page 100 (line 18), omit “, 577C or 577E”.

(64)  Schedule 1, item 249, page 194 (line 28), omit “, 577CD or 577ED”.

(65)  Schedule 1, item 249, page 195 (lines 1 and 2), omit subparagraph 572E(4)(b)(iv) .

The coalition has always been very keen to progress debate on this bill and to establish some principles and conditions that can improve what we think is generally a very bad bill that holds a gun to the head of Telstra Corporation.

These amendments remove those gun-at-the-head provisions which the bill contains. The bill gives ministerial discretion to bar Telstra from bidding for next generation 4G wireless spectrum via a disallowable instrument. As I have said in this chamber before, that is the sort of legislation you would expect to see in communist Russia: ‘We won’t let a commercial company bid for next generation 4G wireless spectrum unless you do what we tell you to do in relation to other matters. That is, you have got to sell your copper network to NBN. If you don’t do that, we’re going to penalise you by saying that you can’t bid for the next generation 4G wireless spectrum’—which is a very valuable asset which Telstra, like everyone else, should have the ability to bid for. The government would threaten Telstra, saying, ‘Unless you agree with everything we say, you can’t bid. You’ll be the only Australian who can’t bid for this.’ That is the sort of dictate that you would get from communist Russia of old. Our amendments will remove those provisions of the bill which provide ministerial discretion.

Our amendments will also remove the gun-at-the-head provisions of the bill which threaten Telstra with being forced to divest its high-frequency coaxial cable—the HFC pay television cables—or its 50 per cent interest in Foxtel if it does not voluntarily structurally separate in ways acceptable to government. This is legislation that would be unheard of in most other democratic countries of the world. It is the Labor government saying to a commercial company operating in Australia—a businessman, so to speak—‘Unless you do what we, Big Brother the government, tell you to do, we are going to make you divest your pay television cable and your 50 per cent interest in Foxtel.’ That is un-Australian, undemocratic and the sort of thing you would not expect to find in any legislation in any democratic institution anywhere in the world.

These amendments are moved together for drafting reasons, largely so that consequential changes to the bill are consistent. While the government claims that the proposed deal between Telstra and NBN Co. render these amendments unnecessary, we actually believe that, at a philosophical level, this approach to obtaining agreement to the change of structure from private entity is absolutely indefensible.

These are worthwhile amendments. I could go on at some length about them, but I am aware that Senator Cash wants to speak to the amendments and perhaps elaborate on them. So I will not take further time of the Senate in line with my view that we should be progressing this and getting through the amendments as quickly as we reasonably can.

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