Senate debates

Tuesday, 13 February 2018


Environment and Communications References Committee; Reference

3:56 pm

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Wouldn't it be remarkable if it was standing, Mr President? Sorry; I apologise. I move:

(1) That the Senate notes that:

(a) on 14 December 2017, the United States (US) Federal Communications Commission voted to remove network neutrality protections;

(b) Australia has no dedicated protections and existing legislation is insufficient to ensure that networks do not discriminate against or prioritise specific services, applications or content delivered over the internet;

(c) in March 2012, the Convergence Review Final Report noted that the "ACCC's existing powers to address competition issues as they relate to content services in the communications market focus on anti-competitive conduct and economic market analysis", which are "too narrow to address evolving content-specific issues, such as exclusive rights arrangements and bundling, and network neutrality issues that inhibit competition"; and

(d) there are existing instances of anti-competitive arrangements between internet service providers and content providers in Australia, including zero rating and unmetered traffic from selected providers, excluding competitors.

(2) That the following matter be referred to the Environment and Communications References Committee for inquiry and report by 15 June 2018:

Australia's need for public interest network neutrality protections and the implications for Australia arising from a US repeal of network neutrality protections, including:

(a) any instances of current and past violations of network neutrality in Australia and any related anti-competitive conduct;

(b) the effectiveness and reach of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in regulating network neutrality in Australia, any obstacles preventing the ACCC from effectively regulating the telecommunications sector, and considerations beyond consumer and competition law;

(c) any considerations or implications for Australia arising from changes to network neutrality laws in the US, including whether Australia needs to renegotiate its free trade agreement with the US as a consequence;

(d) international best practice for network neutrality regulation and protections;

(e) potential regulations and protections that should be considered in order to maintain Australia's open internet and prevent anti-competitive behaviour from internet service and content providers; and

(f) any related matters.

3:57 pm

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Leave is granted for one minute.

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

The Australian government strongly supports the open and unrestricted use of internet for lawful purposes, which is a key principle of net neutrality. In Australia, we already have strong rules to address anticompetitive conduct and a watchdog to enforce these rules in the ACCC. We have a competitive internet service provider market in Australia. Consumers have the ability to easily change providers. This delivers strong disincentives to inhibit providers from engaging in this type of conduct.

The Australian government canvassed net neutrality in its 2006 broadband blueprint, which found that existing competition and consumer laws were well-placed to deal with any concerns. This remains the government's position. Net neutrality also received some commentary in the ACCC's recent draft communications market study, where the regulator endorsed the hands-off approach taken to date. As such, the government considers that this inquiry is unnecessary.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that business of the Senate notice of motion No. 1 be agreed to.