Telecommunications Legislation Amendment Competition and consumer safeguards Bill 2010 – Consideration in Detail

As I have reflected on previously, when we look back on this debate we will see whether we had someone with skills and expertise in this area and who was helping us to advance the cause of technology by bringing a new network that had been denied to the Australian public for many years or someone who went down as a vandal. The more we watch what is taking place here tonight and over the course of the last few weeks, we realise that the contribution from the member for Wentworth will be best summed up as vandalism against this network.

He is effectively demonstrating that he does not believe that we should proceed with this. He said in an MPI that he could not determine whether there is any prospect of a net benefit to our economy. On 26 October, he said that he doubted that there was a ‘net benefit to our economy from this project’. Everyone in this country knows that getting a broadband network in place in this country will have benefits across a range of areas. But the opposition spokesperson charged with being responsible for the opposition on this policy cannot even see a net economic benefit. He then comes forward and says, ‘We think a merits review will be a great idea’. If you cannot trust him on whether there will be an economic benefit, how can you trust him on whether or not he is sincere in his ambition to put in procedural fairness by installing a merits review that his own government got rid of?

He is advocating today that a merits review is the way to go when we finally come to a landing on pricing, but it will shackle us to a litigator’s merry-go-round where they will put the money in and spend up big. The member for Lyne has seen in regional New South Wales how Telstra has just gotten rid of job after job and has not cared about the impact. I have seen it myself. Telstra has not cared about the impact on regional Australia, but at the same time they can find the money, as they have in the past, to challenge regulators’ decisions on pricing. You do not think that in this industry they would not use the merits review to shackle us all to a litigator’s merry-go-round?

This is simply a recipe to stall the NBN. This is a tactic that is not designed in the interests of fairness, in the interests of advancing this further or in ensuring that we have got some oversight and review—this is yet another mechanism being put in place by an opposition whose chief spokesperson on this cannot even see the economic benefits of the NBN, which is startling given his background and expertise. We are being consigned to having delay built into this process. It is being dressed up as being for the benefit of the public when it will actually slow the process down instead of getting a landing on pricing and moving forward on it.

Can we just inject a bit of reality into this? As a wholesaler, NBN Co. will not be the body entrusted to go to individual homes to connect the NBN, it will be the retailers. What will drive it are the retailers and the competition that comes out of doing that. Again, the member for Wentworth does not believe that this presents an economic benefit to the country. He cannot even describe the arrangements between wholesaler and retailer in this, yet he now advocates that we should embrace a merits review as a way of bringing fairness into this when his own government realised what a drag on competition it is.

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley


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