Telstra legislation to wait until 22 Feb


The legislation governing the potential break-up of Telstra’s operations and the reform of Australia’s telecommunications industry will be debated in the Federal Parliament starting 22 February.

The controversial and wide-reaching amendment — first flagged in August last year — was expected to pass through Parliament late in 2009. However, its passage was delayed as extraordinary events took over Australia’s political sphere in the Christmas period, including the struggle over Labor’s Emissions Trading Scheme.

“The The Government is determined to debate and pass the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009 as a matter of priority early in the new year,” a spokesperson for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said today.

“We are on track to do that after Estimates — the week beginning 22 February.” Estimates refers to the Senate Estimates Committee process which reviews government spending.

The news will place the legislative debate after the release of Telstra’s latest financial results on the 11 February. Telstra has previously used the occasion to detail its results and immediate strategy in the marketplace and take questions from financial analysts and the press.

When the legislation was first announced, Conroy promised it would address what he said was Telstra’s “high level of integration” between its wholesale and retail arms.

“The reforms address the structure of the telecommunications market and provide Telstra with the flexibility to choose its future path,” he said. “It is the Government’s clear desire for Telstra to structurally separate, on a voluntary and cooperative basis.”

In a related matter, in December Telstra and the Government announced they had formalised terms for how Telstra would engage with the National Broadband Network Company regarding Telstra’s participation in the roll-out of the network. However scant details were available at the time as to what exactly the agreement contained.

Image credit: Office of Stephen Conroy