Sensis jobs carrier condition breaches international trade law: Telstra

A Greens proposal that would require Sensis to keep its production jobs in Australia would likely breach international trade law, according to Telstra.

The Greens would like to alter Telstra's carrier licence to require the telco to produce all printed and online national number directories, such as the Yellow Pages and the White Pages, within Australia, but that would likely breach international trade law, according to Telstra.

A short parliamentary inquiry into the proposal was launched last month, after the party failed to have the requirement included in telecommunications consumer protection legislation .

In February, Telstra announced that it would cut 648 jobs in the struggling directory business Sensis with 391 back-of-house and customer-care positions to be outsourced.

The proposal has been welcomed by the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, the Community and Public Sector Union, and the Printing Industry Association of Australia, but Telstra, unsurprisingly, is opposed to having the condition imposed on it.

Telstra said in its submission that the requirement would increase the overall cost of providing print and online directories at a time when Telstra is facing significant global competition for directories from online giants, including Google and Facebook.

In addition to that, Telstra said that any such imposition to keep the jobs in Australia "is very likely to constitute a breach of Australia's international law commitments", because it would violate Article XVII of the World Trade Organisation General Agreement on Trade in Service, which says that government measures must not discriminate against foreign services or suppliers.

"Should a carrier licence condition be imposed on Telstra which requires all work by its subsidiary Sensis to produce the White Pages and Yellow Pages directories ... in Australia, the requirement would likely bring Australia into breach of those international trade law obligations," Telstra said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said that consideration should be given to the international trade obligations Australia has signed up for concerning e-commerce and printing and publishing services before imposing any such condition.


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