Communications Minister Stephen Conroy will either "today or tomorrow" table amendments negotiated with Telstra on legislation that forces the telco to structurally separate or face a possible ban on acquiring spectrum for 4G wireless services.
(Credit: NBN Tasmania)
On Sunday, Telstra reached a non-binding heads of agreement with the National Broadband Network Company that would in effect see its retail arm structurally separated from its wholesale arm. Senator Conroy's office today said that amendments to the legislation, known as the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009, would soon be tabled.
"That's something that we're certainly hoping to do today or tomorrow," a statement from the office said. "These are the amendments the minister spoke about in his speech [on Sunday]."
Senator Conroy said on Sunday that the government would be making "a number" of amendments to the legislation to provide Telstra with "the legislative certainty that it needs to proceed with structural separation while still protecting the long-term interests of end users".
"These amendments will improve the current equivalency and transparency measures while the NBN is rolled out," he said. "They will also permit Telstra to set out how it will migrate customers to the NBN and for this to be subject to industry consultation and consideration by the [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission]."
Telstra chief financial officer John Stanhope told analysts and media yesterday in a teleconference call that the agreement it had reached with the Federal Government included "having some of the things that are in the legislation that aren't good for Telstra removed".
It's unknown how many amendments will be tabled, and Telstra has declined to give details, saying there was nothing to say "beyond the contents of [yesterday's] media and analyst briefing".
The related Bill has been listed for debate in the Senate a number of times, with Conroy blaming opposition filibustering for delaying a vote on the legislation.
With a preliminary deal now reached with Telstra — and amendments due to be tabled — senators who previously said they would vote against the Bill may change their mind.
On Sunday, Conroy said the Opposition had refused to support extra days and hours to allow Bills to be debated. "This level of obstructionism has been unheard of in the last 20 years, and we will continue to press ahead with our reform package, our legislation and our amendments," he said.
The Bill not only looks at Telstra, but also at reforming the entire telecommunications sector.