Turnbull endorses, then attacks, Labor's Telstra separation bill

Coalition was never opposed to structural separation, Opposition communications minister says

Opposition communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has confirmed the Opposition will not immediately seek to block the Telstra separation bill introduced into Parliament today.

Instead the Opposition would “carefully consider” the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010.

It would also continue to support the bill’s changes — including a change from the current access regime to one which better balanced the interests of access seekers and carriers — as long as any additional regulatory powers granted to industry watchdog, the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) were subject to appropriate checks and balances, and procedural fairness was maintained.

Despite this, the Coalition would reserve the right to move amendments to this section of the bill in the Senate.

The Opposition also signalled that it would oppose parts of the legislation which imposed functional or structural separation upon Telstra’s fixed-line businesses by refusing the incumbent telco access to wireless spectrum.

In a doorstop interview following the bill's reintroduction into the House of Representatives, Turnbull said the Coalition believed there were strong arguments for the separation of Telstra, but that separation should not be achieved by holding “a gun to the head” of the company.

“Telstra is committed now to structural separation, and I think it would be in the interests of competition generally, and indeed in the interests of shareholders if there was an effective separation, but it would have to be on terms that gave security, in terms of pricing, to that separated network company," he said.

Despite the endorsement of Labor’s bill, Turnbull claimed the Coalition had not significantly changed its policy position on separating Telstra.

“If you are asking the question: Is it Coalition policy to be vehemently opposed to structural separation, that’s not our policy,” he said. “We have never been vehemently opposed to structural separation. We have been opposed to holding a gun to Telstra’s head and forcing them to do it against their will.”

Turnbull did not provide details on how the Coalition might put forward legislation which broke up Telstra, yet did it in a way which Telstra was happy with. The telco issued a press release prior to Turnbull's press conference voicing support for the bill's passage through Parliament quickly.

Having endorsed the separation legislation, Turnbull went on to attack it arguing the separation, in order to facilitate the National Broadband Network (NBN), was fundamentally uncompetitive.

“What we have here is legislation which is proposing… to create a government monopoly to contractually oblige Telstra to pull out its copper network, to contractually oblige Telstra not to use its HFC network to compete with the NBN, and which… prevents Telstra from saying to customers, ‘well you know you could get pretty good broadband on Telstra wireless’; they’re not even allowed to say that,” Turnbull said.

“This is so anti-competitive — it is obviously highly anti-competitive — that the government is proposing, as far as I am aware, for the first time, to actually exempt the creation of a government monopoly of this kind from the provisions of the Trade Practices Act.

“If vertical integration is the problem, then separation — structural or functional — is the answer. If monopoly is the problem, the competition is the answer and what we have is a great big new monopoly being created by the Government."

Despite the criticisms, the Coalition, according to Turnbull, had previously indicated support for key parts of this legislation, including a proposed shift from the current access regime to a more predictable and less contentious framework which balances the interests of access seekers and carriers.

The news follows comments from Prime Minister Julia Gillard this week that the government intended to introduce its Telstra separation bill.

“We will be pursuing it and it becomes a question, really, for Mr Abbott and for Mr Turnbull as to whether they will stand in the way of this key microeconomic reform, which of course will be better for businesses, better for customers and enable the further development of the National Broadband Network,” Gillard said on ABC's Lateline program.

“And of course, since the legislation was last in the Parliament, we have entered an agreement with Telstra - and that is very significant - an agreement with Telstra which is about the delivery of the National Broadband Network and Telstra's customer base using the National Broadband Network.”

Tags telstra separationMalcolm TurnbullPrime Minister Julia GillardNational Broadband Network (NBN)NBNTelstra

More about ABCABC NetworksAustralian Competition and Consumer CommissionBilletworkTelstra Corporation Ltd

11 Comments

Raymond

1

And rightly so Malcolm dear boy! because it is the legislation that is going to cause major problems!

Legislation becomes the law,scope, and rules we have to operate by.

About time somebody did some legislative work in Canberra!

Simon

2

Its about time the Liberals gave up and allowed the government to perform its job in rolling out the NBN Co i.e. do not block reasonable legisaltion put forward.

If Labor fail to achieve anything in the next 2-3 years it will be up to the Australian public to decide whether to give them another 3 years.

The public gave the Labor party the mandate to move forward with the NBN Co and FTTH rollout. Thats democracy and that what people want now and not in 10yrs time.

The Liberals had the opportunity for many years to reform the Telecommunications sector and they failed.

Senators Cooney, Minchin, etc achieved nothing.

Telstra strangled competition and kept charging high prices and delivering poor service.

Lets get on with building the braodband network Australia deserves today.

I urge all ICT professionals to back the NBN Co and go against any Liberal attempt to delay or block its implementation.

The multiplier effect to the ICT sector and the AUst economy is huge and will stimulate employment, innovation, efficiency, productivity. Business and society will benefit in so many ways.

The public should decide at the next election if Labor and NBN Co in its present form is to continue or not.

Raymond

3

@ 2 Simon, if you care to think back to a recent election, labor went to the people with a NBN and if you care to go back and check the vote count, they were rejected! Fact!

The only reason NBN is such a major issue now is because a Grimy Independent who does not know how to use a computer was instrumental in putting this government back, so you might be advised not to go down that path sooooooooo easily put to rest.
Have you ever considered, everybody wants Broadband, but not a manopoly and built by a government who has a track record of not being able to build a sand castle!.....and, it's with our money...............and, they are wasting it!
By all means built a nation broadband, but let private enterprise build it!

We are again blessed

4

Holy rooster, prophet and our shining ray of guiding light, please again bless us oh sage, by bestowing your endless knowledge upon the sinning heretics. Oh mighty rooster and blessed messenger of the anointed bull, tell the everyday heathen that your name is rooster google, because you and you alone have been imparted by rabbit and bull to supply endless knowledge. Tell us again that absolutely everything you say is unquestionably holier than even god himself. Oh almighty, morally rigid cock, your stoic fortitude in spreading the holy gospel of rabbit and particularly spreading the bull, is a true lesson in greed and sloth.

lantana

5


@We are again blessed:

Not sure you've got all that quite correct. He usually seems to be more uptight than, er, upright.

And you forgot to invoke the death stare of the bishop . . .

Simon

6

@3 Raymond

If you have a problem with the Australian political system I suggest you debate your views on one of the mainstream news sites.

Most ICT professionals like myself (of bodies like the Australian Computer Society and the Project Management Institute) will accept that the Labor party has a right to govern based on the last election.

As I stated earlier the Liberal party had many years to reform the Telecommunications industry and failed dismally.

Private enterprise hasn't built a proper FFTH network and has had many years of opportunity to do so.

Give the NBN Co the opportunity to do so now and if it doesn't deliver by the next election, well then everyone can decide which way to go.

The amount of money spent between now and the next election will not be anywhere near $43bn.

Give the NBN Co and Labor a fair shot at it and give it the support it needs to get moving...

Richard Ure

7

The allegations of inefficiencies in other projects is becoming very tedious. After all, it is not as if the Liberal government covered itself in glory when it comes to defence contracts.

After years of having a gun held at our head by Telstra, it is hard to find any sympathy for them now. Not that they seem to need it given they are realising their future is in services, not engineering. The sooner they restructure themselves and get on with the job with better it will be for everybody.

D Newman

8

@8 I still believe clipping onto a fibre cable to view data is still harder than hijacking a muppets wireless account, so your point about the NBN being easy to hack is no more or less than the situation now, in fact the fibre is harder because that requires more action and knowhow than sniffing out a poorly secure wireless connection.

Lastly people are more fuming after being whipped up into a pitch fork waving frenzy by poorly presented facts both from the media and the pollies, Labor just sucks at presenting skills.

But sad fact is once you sit someone down and explain what the connection is, and why the copper is being decommision, there is more often than not the sound of a rather embarressed pitchfork hitting the ground.

There is grounds for some raised eyebrows and pressure for clarity, but what your preaching is just FUD.

its all true i swear

9

what comment 8 says is all true. i know because my next door neighbour is from mars and he, she, it told me.

Raymond

10

@ 9 Ah Newman dear boy, just thought I would return serve from your cheap shot about sewer cables earlier.

I seem to recall of recent days the Almighty Quigley has admitted less than a 10% take up of NBN and he is hoping when the Telstra deal is concluded, that the phone line portion will make the take up look much better, I seem to recall being hunted uphill downdale on 17% figure in that great state of Tassie!

@6 Simon my simpl friend, you missed the point entirely! however, I did notice on another posting elsewhere, you were urging all and every nerd to vote for NBN next election! are we trying to use the polictical system for your own selfish propeller head reasons!

Keep it simple dear boy! it suits your DNA

Raymond

11

@ 9 Cat got the tongue Newman! or is it just gutless Cat!

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