Mansfield disses Aussie rules

Regulations controlling the Australian telecommunications industry are unnecessary and undermine shareholder investment, Telstra chairman Bob Mansfield said at the Australian Telecommunications Users Group conference yesterday.

Mansfield said industry-specific regulations were restrictive to the development of emerging technologies. Furthermore, he said regulation should be allowed to give way to competition as the governor of industry evolution.

"Competition has replaced regulation . . . as it should. As far as regulation is concerned, less is better," he said.

Mansfield said all Australian industries should ideally adhere to general trade practices regulations. "Additional, industry-specific competition laws are necessary and can undermine investment."

Mansfield compared current regulations surrounding the Australian telecommunications industry with the 110-year-old Sherman Antitrust Law that Microsoft was found guilty of earlier this week. Australia risked being "left behind in a globalised market" if IT regulations were not updated at the same speed as the IT industry "matured", he warned. "As the competitive environment matures, then so should the regulatory environment," he said.

Mansfield expressed full support for the privatisation of the remaining 51 per cent of Telstra. Full privatisation would see Telstra delivering its most competitive service and pricing, he said. "Ownership mattered when there was one phone company and one owner. But now it is irrelevant.

"Services have improved and prices have come down, not because Telstra is government owned, but because of the forces of competition."

Earlier this week, Professor Allan Fels, chairman of consumer watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, highlighted the Australian mobile telecommunications industry sector as one of the country's most competitive, and consequently most in need of monitoring. Fels said the ACCC had recently conducted an investigation into the pricing structures of mobile carriers, which the commission believed were "too high".

The ACCC declined to comment on Mansfield's remarks.

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