Shadow communications minister, Tony Smith, has reaffirmed the opposition’s plans to vote against the separation of Telstra through legislative reform.
In a press statement, the minister labelled Labor’s plans a “deliberate assault on Telstra, it’s 1.4 million shareholders and 30,000 employees”. He also claimed it illustrated the commercial risks posed by the National Broadband Network (NBN).
“The Coalition has never advocated the forced break-up of Telstra,” he said. “Telstra shareholders have every reason to be outraged by Labor’s plans to force the break-up of the company.”
However, Smith flagged its support for broader telecommunications reform through Parliament.
“The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment [Competition and Consumer Safeguards] Bill 2009 also proposes a range of reforms with respect to the access regime and the competition and consumer landscape,” he stated.
“Whilst there are a number of proposals that would require careful consideration, the Coalition has repeatedly said it supports sensible telecommunications reforms and enhanced consumer safeguards.”
As previously reported in ARN, the Liberal and National parties appeared split over whether separation of Telstra was in the public’s best interests. During the parliamentary sitting into the reforms bill on November 26, Shadow treasurer and National party member, Senator Barnaby Joyce, said he and his colleague, Senator Fiona Nash, continued to hold the view that Telstra should be separated. This contradicted earlier statements by the Liberals that the party would oppose such legislation.
Last week, the Government and Telstra traded fresh blows over separation plans after draft legislation was released on the NBN. In a letter to shareholders, Telstra stated it supported the NBN and ongoing negotiation, but said any forced separation would destroy shareholder value and make any NBN partnership difficult to achieve.
In late February, communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, condemned the opposition’s bid to delay the telecommunications bill.