Thursday, 25 November 2010
Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010
I have got a few things to say about these amendments, and I think it is very important for all those in the chamber to understand that coalition amendments (1) to (17), (24), (33) to (40), (43), (45) to (57), (64) and (65) relate to spectrum and undertakings about hybrid fibre-coaxial networks and subscription television broadcasting licences. I know that was difficult to discern from the previous speaker, but I think it is important clarification.
These amendments are not necessary. There is no longer an automatic prohibition on the acquisition of spectrum if Telstra does not structurally separate and divest its interests in the HFC network and Foxtel. The bill has been amended to give Telstra sufficient regulatory certainty to take a firm proposal to its shareholders to structurally separate by allowing Telstra to acquire specified bands of spectrum unless the minister determines otherwise in a legislative instrument—in other words, unless a legislative instrument is debated in the chamber.
The bill does not require Telstra to divest its interests in Foxtel but still provides a framework for Telstra to voluntarily divest its interests in Foxtel and its hybrid fibre-coaxial cable network. In the event that Telstra does not proceed with structural separation, the minister could take into account Telstra’s ownership of Foxtel and HFC networks in determining whether to use the powers in the bill to prevent Telstra from acquiring certain spectrum to address Telstra’s power in telecommunications markets.
I think it is important to note in this regard that the bill is about the structure of the telecommunications industry, and it is absolutely the purview of this parliament to legislate on behalf of all Australians to ensure that the structure of the industry is able to respond to the long-term interests of end users as outlined and to do so quite effectively. These amendments are not necessary. The concern that the opposition is putting forward has been addressed in the bill and is no longer the case. We will be opposing the amendments because they are no longer necessary.