Minchin slams Telstra separation bill

Ex-shadow communication minister confirms Opposition will oppose the bill in Senate

The Opposition has confirmed that it will oppose the passing of the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009 which would see the break-up of Telstra into separate wholesale and retails businesses.

Speaking in the Senate, Senator Nick Minchin, who is acting as the shadow minister handling the bill and is the former shadow communications minister, said the bill was an "extraordinary attack" on Telstra.

“The opposition will be opposing the bill as it is an extraordinary attack on a substantial publicly-listed company by the Australian Government,” he said.

According to Minchin, the bill would result in “unfettered discretionary powers” given to the communications regulator — the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) — with no regard to procedural fairness or proper recourse for review of its decisions.

Minchin used his speech to accuse the Government of using the bill to cover up its inability to implement its first National Broadband Network (NBN) policy and to effectively cover up flaws in its current NBN, a “slow motion train wreck” of a policy “committed to on the run with no business plan and no cost benefit analysis”.

“Not a single broadband service has been delivered under the guise of the NBN since this government came to office two years ago,” he said. “The NBN has been used to reward mates… the Mike Kaiser situation is a scandal.”

Minchin said the bill, if passed in current form, could potentially result in consumers being worse off and the establishment of another government telecommunications monopoly.

Shareholders would also suffer as the cost to separate Telstra could top $1 billion and take five years, Minchin claimed.

“This extraordinary attack on Telstra is such that the Telstra share price has been so depressed that Optus is now the biggest telecommunications provider in the Australian market by market capitalisation,” he said.

Minchin said that the Opposition would stick to its position on the bill until the Government’s NBN implementation study was released.

“We maintain that major structural change in the industry should not be carried out until the taxpayer-funded $25 million implementation study into the NBN is released,” he said. “We should not be considering this legislation until we get that study and the Government’s response.”

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