Updated - Election 2010: The policies so far

Labor, Liberal and Greens reveal their policies on key ICT topics

Telecommunications reform

Labor

In what communications minister, Stephen Conroy, has called a “wrestle with Telstra”, the Labor party has continued to tackle telecommunications reform in parallel to discussion surrounding the NBN. The main focus of the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009 introduced by the Labor party while in power has been to structurally or functionally separate Telstra from its wholesale and retail arms, while also expanding the powers delivered to ACMA and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for consumer rights.

Key aspects of the bill may be redundant pending the approval of a $9 billion deal between Telstra and NBN wholesaler, NBN Co, which would see the incumbent telco voluntarily separate, progressively decommissioning its copper network and transitioning all copper and HFC cable-based customers to the NBN as it is rolled out. The Rudd Government also committed an additional $2 billion that would relieve Telstra of its universal service obligations, to be responsible under a government enterprise business, USO Co.

The amendment to telecommunications legislation is yet to be passed through Parliament, however. The Labor party has committed to a continued push for the bill, provided key opponents such as the Opposition and Family First senator, Steven Fielding, approve its passing.

Liberal

The Liberal party has continued to block the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009 in Parliament in an act Greens senator, Scott Ludlam, said was “filibustering”.

The party itself is yet to announce a specific policy on telecommunications reform. However, should the Liberals win Government and scrap the NBN, it is likely its unconfirmed broadband policy may involve the utilisation of key Telstra assets such as its dark fibre network.

Liberal leader, Tony Abbott also told 2GB radio that, while Telstra’s not perfect, “it’s better in private hands than it ever was with the public servants running it and we don’t want a new Telecom in this country today”.

Greens

Ludlam has welcomed the telecommunications bill as important legislation for telecommunications reform, “so owners of broadband infrastructure no longer have an incentive to discriminate on the basis of content and content provider”.

Next: Distribution of IT responsibilities

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