Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is "misguided" if he thinks the telecommunications industry reform legislation is putting a gun to Telstra's head, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has said today.
When the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010 was reintroduced into parliament last week, it contained a number of amendments to the Bill that was put forward prior to the election. These amendments take into account the $11 billion Heads of Agreement deal reached between Telstra and the National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co), which will see the telco structurally separate of its own accord.
In response to the Bill, Turnbull yesterday announced a number of his own amendments that the Opposition would seek to add, including provisions around proper scrutiny of the Telstra-NBN Co deal by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission as well as the removal of sections of the previous Bill allowing government to bar Telstra from the right to bid for future wireless spectrum if it did not agree to structurally separate.
Conroy said that if Turnbull had read the new Bill, he would see that the amendments were redundant.
"The Bill no longer includes an automatic prohibition on the acquisition of spectrum if Telstra does not structurally separate and divest its interests in its HFC (hybrid fibre coaxial) network and Foxtel," Conroy said in a statement.
"Malcolm Turnbull has been briefed by my department on the Bill so he knows his amendments are unnecessary. The Opposition are only interested in delaying and obstructing the Bill."
Conroy said the competitive impacts of the Heads of Agreement deal would be scrutinised under provisions included in the Bill.
"The Bill authorises entering into the agreement and associated conduct for the purposes of trade practices law only if the ACCC accepts the undertaking. This removes any need for multiple authorisation inquiries, while still ensuring appropriate scrutiny of the arrangements."
Telstra, which was previously opposed to the Bill, welcomed the reintroduction of the legislation last week, with CEO David Thodey saying that passing the legislation this year would be in the best interest of the telco's shareholders.