Senate debates

Thursday, 24 March 2011

National Broadband Network Companies Bill 2010; Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures — Access Arrangements) Bill 2011

In Committee

5:13 pm

Photo of Stephen ConroyStephen Conroy (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

The government does not support this amendment. The bill as drafted makes NBN Co. a wholesale only provider. The mechanism it uses is a restriction on selling to any party other than a carrier or carriage service provider or specified utility—that is, it cannot sell to end users. The proposed amendment puts a further restriction—this is what is critically important—on the parties that NBN Co. can supply. It leaves the requirement that NBN Co. supply only carriers or carriage service providers, but only those carriers or carriage service providers or a member of their immediate circle that supply a service to the public.

A couple of very important points need to be made in response to this. First, NBN Co. will only supply a service that by its nature is a wholesale service—for example, a layer 2 service on the fibre network. This is not a service that can be used by an end user as considerable resources and capability are required in order to turn a layer 2 service into an end-user or retail service. You cannot use the service that the NBN is providing without changing it and adding to it. But most importantly—and the hypocrisy of Senator Birmingham and those opposite—the restriction proposed by the opposition would prevent an arrangement that has been permitted by the Howard government’s own legislation since 1997—that a person can become a carrier even if that person wishes to supply services primarily to his or her own operations.

You are actually seeking to amend your own legislation to restrict people in a completely anticompetitive way. You are actually seriously proposing to this chamber to restrict your own previous legislation to be more anticompetitive. That is what you are proposing. It is quite an astonishing and astounding thing for the Liberal party, the supposed party of competition—although in the telco sector we know there have been a few black marks over the last 15 years. But seriously, this is your chance to shake off the chains and to shake off the anticompetitive position that you and your party have endorsed for 15 years. There is an opportunity to actually get on board for a pro-competition piece of legislation.

This amendment is also poorly drafted. It prevents carriers or service providers from using NBN Co. services for their own internal communications. For these reasons, the government does not support this anticompetitive and restrictive amendment.

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