The Coalition's attempt to delay the Government's proposed legislation to separate Telstra has been denounced by the industry.
It comes after yesterday’s confirmation from Shadow Broadband Minister, Senator Nick Minchin, that the Opposition’s stance is against a forced structural or functional separation of Telstra as part of the Government’s proposed Bill for a radical telecommunications industry reform.
Senator Minchin claimed the legislation was “an abuse of Government power”.
He said the Coalition would defer discussions on the issue until the National Broadband Network (NBN) implementation study was released in Februrary.
Competition Carriers Coalition (CCC) director, David Forman, lambasted this decision. He said it was a huge mistake by the Coalition, which now opposed to the opinions of Telstra’s competitors, consumers and the telecommunications industry.
“We disagree most violently with this position,” Forman said. “It is absolute nonsense and the most shameless misrepresentation that you can possibly make of this Bill.
“To delay the legislation further just means we will have poorer competition, higher prices and poorer services for longer.”
Forman said the Opposition had bought into Telstra’s scare tactics. Regional communities would be worst affected due to the resulting delay in introducing decent competition.
“The Coalition seems to have lost all sense of principle,” he said. “The legislation is what [former Broadband Minister] Helen Coonan fought a long time for and now there is a new Coalition spokesperson for communications, history seems to have been wiped clean.
“Its previous stance was correct. I don’t know why it has been changed. Is the Coalition opposing the Bill for the sake of it?”
Bhatia echoed Forman’s sentiments that the Opposition is pressing for unnecessary delays that will stifle healthy competition in rural Australia. He also issued an invited to Senator Minchin to discuss the issue in public.
“Delay is the worst form of denial; it will only delay the inevitable,” he said. “This will put providing fair, reasonable, high quality and low cost services to the region further into the future,” Bhatia said.
“I am willing to debate Senator Minchin face-to-face on this issue in any forum.”
Telecommunications analyst, Paul Budde, reproached the Coalition for failing to see the bigger picture and falling short on providing sensible contributions to the proposed legislation.
“The situation so far is the Opposition has yet to come up with any policy of its own,” he said. “This is basically aimed at undermining the Government’s policies without coming up with any other alternative.
“I would like to see an Opposition that comes up with constructive policies and ideas that the incumbent Government haven’t considered.”