The Federal Government should have the numbers it needs to pass its proposed bill splitting Telstra after all but one of the cross-bench senators indicated in-principal support for the plan.
The bill seeks to split Telstra’s wholesale and retail divisions and to increase the powers of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
The five Greens senators and independent South Australian senator, Nick Xenophon, support the bill in principal, pending further investigation. Family First senator, Steve Fielding, remains neutral.
“For years, the telecommunications industry has been demanding the Government regulate Telstra and bite the bullet on separating wholesale and retail services,” Greens communications spokesman, Senator Scott Ludlam, said. “We insist that Telstra, the National Broadband Network and any other telco never be allowed to own public infrastructure and simultaneously compete with retail providers.”
A spokesperson for Senator Xenophon told ARN the independent had not read the 137-page bill yet, but was “broadly supportive” and unlikely not to vote for it “unless it contains something ridiculous”.
Family First party senator, Steve Fielding, questioned the timing of the announcement but did not come out against the split.
“Why did the Future Fund decide to sell a huge chunk of its stake in Telstra only three-and-a-half weeks ago and did it have unfair advance notice?,” Fielding said in a statement.
“If today's announcement sees Telstra's share price drop and results in big losses for mum and dad investors, they will rightly be angry if the Future Fund had an unfair advantage."
Although the proposed legislation will not directly force Telstra to split its retail and wholesale divisions, the telco will not be able to acquire additional spectrum in the growing and lucrative wireless broadband sector, nor retain its HFC cable network, unless it does so.