Labor targets Telstra in communications platform

Labor targets Telstra in communications platform

Summary: Shadow communications minister Lindsay Tanner has unveiled the Labor Party's plans for the telecommunications industry under a Labor government, singling out Telstra ownership and industry competition as the major issues for its party platform.

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Shadow communications minister Lindsay Tanner has unveiled the Labor Party's plans for the telecommunications industry under a Labor government, singling out Telstra ownership and industry competition as the major issues for its party platform.

The party's campaign -- released yesterday -- states the Labor party is "committed" to keeping Telstra majority publicly owned, and that a Labor government would "ensure" the industry heavyweight "focuses on providing all Australian with decent telecommunications services".

"A privately owned Telstra would be a huge private monopoly too powerful for any government to effectively regulate," the party stated in its campaign document. "A privatised Telstra would leave regional Australia faster than the banks".

The campaign claims Telstra "will be required" by a Labor government to "focus on its core responsibilities and reduce its emphasis on foreign ventures and media investments". The party adds that the telco will also be required to provide "accessible and affordable broadband services to all Australians".

The Labor party has also targeted the much debated line rental fees -- that were increased last June -- claiming it will "freeze" any further increases in home line rental for standard Telstra plans for it's first term in office.

The party stated in its nine point Consumer's Charter for Telecommunications released last Tuesday that it would "ensure that consumers receive a better deal in the world of telecommunications", adding in its campaign platform that it would "end John Howard's Telstra line rental rip off which has seen prices rise from AU$11.65 to AU$26.95 and AU$29.95 in just four years".

The party said it will also be asking Telstra to dissociate itself from the Foxtel media company, and use the governments cut of the separation proceeds to "enhance Telstra's broadband availability and reach".

"Telstra's primary focus should be on carriage not content," stated the platform document.

The party cited OECD figures taken in 2003 to demonstrate Australia's rank as 20th in the global broadband connection stakes, with only 2.65 percent of households having internet connection speeds above 256Kbps.

"Many parts of Australia, including even some suburbs of our capital cities, still do not enjoy access to ADSL broadband," it said.

Labor said it will also be "requiring much stricter internal separation of Telstra's wholesale and retail activities" in a bid to improve industry competition.

"Labor will implement a strict non-discrimination rule," according to the platform document. "This will ensure that Telstra provides access to its monopoly telecommunications network at prices to competitors, equivalent to those it charges itself."

The party claims that it will enforce "greater public disclosure of Telstra's accounts".

Labor's communications platform has also attempted to appeal to Tasmanian voters in promising a "single Tasmania call zone", designed to give Tasmanians "access to un-timed local calls across Tasmania".

Labor said in "the general telecommunications area" it plans to implement its telecommunications charter, which -- along with the promise to freeze line rental increases -- also pledges to create fairer mobile contracts, stronger consumer protection, credit limits for phone accounts and employ stricter rules for telemarketing.

The party claims it will also introduce a new "disabled telecommunications policy" and initiate "stricter mobile towers policy" to give communities "more say" in the locations of mobile phone towers.

"The telecommunications sector has suffered from eight years of Howard Government neglect", the party said.

Telstra responded to questions by ZDNet Australia of its opinion of the party's communications campaign by saying that it will read the Labor party's platform with "great interest".

Topics: Telcos, Government, Government AU, Telstra, IT Employment

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