The Shadow Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has signalled the Coalition will oppose key parts of the Government’s proposed telecommunications bill.
“The Coalition will oppose those parts of the legislation that impose functional or structural separation upon Telstra’s fixed-line businesses by refusing the firm access to wireless spectrum,” Turnbull said in a statement.
The Shadow Minister’s stance on the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009 comes despite Telstra CEO, David Thodey, calling for a speedy acceptance of the Bill by Parliament.
“We believe the interests of Telstra shareholders would be best served by the bill being passed this year so that a definitive agreement on our involvement in the NBN can be reached quickly,” he said in a statement.
But Turnbull dismissed Thodey’s statements as being made under duress during a press conference held in Canberra. He also claimed the Coalition was never “vehemently opposed” to separating Telstra’s wholesale and retail divisions and could now support it.
“What we do object to is the Government holding a gun to Telstra’s head…and saying ‘we will use our power to stop you from bidding on wireless spectrum unless you do what we want’,” he said. “If vertical integration is the problem then separation, either structural or functional, is the answer,” he said. “If monopoly is the problem then competition is the answer.
“What we have is a great big new monopoly being created by the Government…this does not require the destruction and overbuilding of the existing Telstra network and the erection of a $43 billion new network.”
But Turnbull was keen to state he did not oppose the Bill entirely. He claimed it would be “carefully” reviewed by the party with amendments set to be put forward.
“We support some of the changes to the price-setting arrangements to move from negotiating and arbitrating to a more directive approach,” he said.
Turnbull also sought out to dismiss Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy’s, claim that the Coalition is seeking to slow down or block the rollout of the National Broadband Network.
“I just want to reject comprehensively the suggestion or allegation from Senator Conroy that the Coalition is endevouring to block or delay or frustrate the construction of the NBN,” he said. “The passage of the legislation that has been reintroduced today does not affect the progress of the construction.”