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

6:09 pm

Photo of Mary FisherMary Fisher (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I am speaking your language, or at least trying to, Minister. How obfuscatory it is. You try to say that our amendment effectively tells ‘them’ what to do with it when in fact our amendment simply says one thing that they cannot do with it. That one thing is not to on-supply to the public. We do not dare to prescribe what and how about on-supply to the public. We are hardly telling them what to do with it. All that we are doing is saying what they cannot do with it—we get the amendment, Minister—and we are making it very clear that retail service providers continue to have a role in this market.

As for telling ‘them’ what to do with it, the government’s bill very clearly tells the retail service providers what to do with it and what to do with their business. Your government is very clearly telling the retail service providers they can stick it up their jumper. They can stick what has been their business right up their jumper because the government owned enterprise, NBN Co., is about to do things that would be a profanity, if I named them in this chamber, to the market. So, you will be very pleased to know that I shall refrain.

Minister, you have tried to say that as of today the market allows the very thing that this opposition amendment is trying to outlaw. You seem to be conveniently forgetting that your NBN proposition is to move from the market and scenario of today to a world of tomorrow—a totally different world of tomorrow. But it now may be even more different than we thought it was going to be because with this raft of amendments that you have tabled overnight. It really is quite an indecent proposal for this Senate to consider your 20-or-so pages of amendments, delivered overnight at this short notice. It is an indecent proposal because, Minister, deep in your heart of hearts you know that these amendments so turn on its head the underlying spirit of what was the companies bill that really you should have tabled a new bill. You should not be trying to amend the bill that is currently before the Senate. You should have gone back to the drawing board and started again.

In your heart of hearts you know you should have done that. But you know that were you to do that you would also have to start the process all over again and that might put a spanner in the spokes as to your need to reach an agreement with Telstra and the need for your government owned enterprise to get access to certain things that Telstra has. You also know you are not going to get a deal with Telstra until you have got legislation in some form or other through this chamber—and that needs to be quick smart. So, Minister, do not talk to us about telling them what to do with it when your bill very clearly tells the retail service providers what to do with it and what to do with their business and that is to stick it up their jumper—and that is putting it politely. Minister, my question is: what in the bill or the bill as proposed to be amended by the government stops NBN Co. from stepping into the shoes of would-be retail service providers in any circumstance? What provisions in the bill or in the amendments tabled by the government stop NBN Co. from being a retailer?

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