Turnbull’s amendments hit furious Conroy


Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has revealed the cost of the Coalition’s cooperation in getting Labor’s wide-ranging telecommunications legislation through the Federal Parliament: A handful of amendments aimed at protecting both Telstra and Australian consumers.

Last week Labor finally reintroduced its controversial Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition & Consumer Safeguards) Act 2010 after it had previously been stonewalled in Parliament prior to the Federal Election.

The bill provides for the long-awaited structural separation of Telstra’s retail arm from the rest of the company, but has been amended to reflect the agreement between Telstra and NBN Co on how the telco will transition its customers onto the National Broadband Network as the fibre is rolled out around Australia.

In addition, the legislation, according to Labor, will strengthen the regulatory access regime to provide more certainty to telcos, streamline the anti-competitive conduct regime, and strengthen consumer safeguards such as the Universal Service Obligation and the Customer Services Guarantee.

In a statement this afternoon, Turnbull said the Coalition supported the bill’s introduction of a new and more certain pricing regime by which telcos would gain access to each other’s infrastructure — particularly Telstra’s. However, the Coalition wants four major changes to the legislation that would:

  • Ensure the Competition & Consumer Act (formerly the Trade Practices Act) applies to the $11 billion deal between NBN Co and Telstra
  • Ensure the Parliament is able to disallow ministerial directions to the national competition regulator, the ACCC, regarding the deal
  • Remove the provisions in the bill which threaten Telstra with losing the right to bid for wireless spectrum or being forced to sell its HFC network or shareholding in pay TV operator Foxtel, if it does not structurally separate according to the Government’s wishes
  • Restore what Turnbull called “merit reviews and procedural fairness” to the ACCC’s enforcement of the new access pricing regime

The Coalition has previously been against the separation of Telstra into separate divisions to deal with retail and wholesale customers, but Turnbull said in the new context of the new industry governed by the new legislation, such a separation would be “a welcome development”.

“The Coalition therefore has no objection to Telstra separating its retail and network businesses, but does not believe such a separation should occur under duress, or via a deal that is in breach of the nation’s competition laws,” he said.

Conroy’s response
However, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy didn’t appear to be happy with the Coalition’s conditional support for Labor’s legislation.

In his own statement, the Labor heavyweight claimed the Coalition’s move represented the fact that it had “dumped the failed broadband policy it took to the election”. “It appears the Opposition is changing its position on broadband despite Tony Abbott claiming just weeks ago that changing their policy is not a trap he’ll fall into. It seems he’s fallen in and he should release the details,” Conroy said.

Turnbull had acknowledged that the NBN project would achieve structural separation of the telco sector, but at what he called “an enormous and unnecessary cost and risk to the taxpayer”, and via the creation of a new Government-owed fixed line monopoly.

However, Conroy demanded the Coalition answer the question of how much the separation of Telstra would cost taxpayers without the NBN project, and why Telstra would agree to such a deal without the incentives offered by its $11 billion deal with NBN Co. “While the Opposition dithers with one failed broadband plan after another the Gillard Government is getting on with delivering the NBN,” he said.

Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull


  1. Where’s the fully transparent NBN business case again? Oh that’s right, it doesn’t exist!

  2. And welcome to a government trying to be in charge but has no real power.

    watch as everything labor says it can do be removed before it’s eyes.

  3. Hey “Comrade” – where’s the “fully transparent business case” for new Children’s Hospital in Melbourne? Or for the $100 billion we’ll spend on welfare this year? Some things aren’t about making a buck – they’re about helping this country. If all those Coalition supporters complaining about this NBN keep their focus on the fact that it’s going to cost a lot of money it might not make back, they’ll never win – because a whole lot of Australians are sick of the state of the industry to date. Just as we support the concept of Centrelink, Hospitals, Medicare, and a public funded defence force the majority of Australians are right behind this broadband network.

  4. Seems the coalition like losing elections… I cant wait to see what dismal plan they come up with next, this stuff is more entertaining than whats on TV lately.

  5. You can not protect Telstra AND the consumer at the same time. The consumer needs protection from Telstra’s predatory excessive pricing.
    Turnball AND the liberals need to wake up to that fact and stop letting Telstra rip off the consumer/taxpayers.
    Telstra needs to be split and the NBN needs to be built.
    The Liberals never had the ball’s to do it when they were in power, instead they gave a single company the power to wreck the telco sector and impose excessive rip off prices and sub standard broadband speeds.
    Makes one wonder IF and how much Telstra paid the liberals to do just that.

    • Why do you think that NBN will not rip their customers off? I’m sure that NBN’s prices will be higher and nobody can do anything because Conroy will control ACCC. And this is in addition to $43B to spend on the network itself.

  6. I’m all for ensuring that the NBN is a utility like electricity and water but if it then WHY is it not on the budget?
    Please tell the government to put the NBN onto the budget along with all other projects that tax payers will subsidise if that is the case, otherwise explain coherently to the tax payer how it will make a profit.

  7. I’d rather a government owned monopoly than a privately owned monopoly any day of the week.

  8. It astounds me that some will wait 15 years (NBN’s projections) for a network that will little or no relevance to the way we utilise the “net”.

    Cables hanging out walls or “private” wifi infrastructure is clearly not the way forward (using a good old labour term) – Conroy is on a personal crusade to deliver something that no one will use even before it delivered – this is madness…

    Speed and Access is the key – look around you and what do you see ??? What is happening with social networking – what is happening in businesses today ?? what are the devices being used ?? How many people actually have fixed technology now and what is it going to look like in 15 years ??

    This is a bad plan and if the focus is to sell it off in years to come then there needs to be a business case. The Giilard gov lied in the last election when they talked about the success of the Tasmania trial – their release of gigabit per second connections by the CEO of the NBN was a political stunt.

    This plan is poorly designed and has no foresight… Personal crusades was the ethos of the Rudd gov and this continues with Conroy – the guys is wither poorly advised or just an idiot…

    Enough said…

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