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Thursday, 25 November 2010
Page: 2307


Senator BIRMINGHAM (8:48 PM) —by leave—I move opposition amendments (18), (19), (25), (26), (28), (31) and (41) on sheet 7004:

(18)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 11 (line 27), omit “writing”, substitute “legislative instrument”.

(19)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 12 (line 4), omit “written”, substitute “legislative”.

(25)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 15 (line 7), omit “writing”, substitute “legislative instrument”.

(26)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 15 (line 13), omit “writing”, substitute “legislative instrument”.

(28)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 18 (line 9), omit “writing”, substitute “legislative instrument”.

(31)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 25 (line 8), omit “writing”, substitute “legislative instrument”.

(41)  Schedule 1, item 31, page 59 (line 9), omit “make a written”, substitute “, by legislative instrument, make a”.

We also oppose schedule 1 in the following terms:

(22)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 13 (lines 28 to 32), subsections 577A(22) and (23) TO BE OPPOSED.

(27)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 16 (lines 7 to 12), subsections 577AA(9) and (10) TO BE OPPOSED.

(29)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 18 (lines 14 to 16), subsections 577B(8) and (9) TO BE OPPOSED.

(32)  Schedule 1, item 30, page 25 (lines 22 to 27), subsections 577BB(3) and (4) TO BE OPPOSED.

(42)  Schedule 1, item 31, page 63 (line 18), subsection 75(6) TO BE OPPOSED.

These amendments relate very much to some of the topics we were traversing before. They relate to the accountability of the government in this process, the transparency of this process and ultimately the role of the parliament as an arbiter in this process. Unfortunately, much of that normal transparency, accountability and the role of the parliament has been stripped from this process by the government’s proposals to put in place very special arrangements for the Telstra deal which would exclude it very much from the normal operations of the Competition and Consumer Act. Notwithstanding the changes that we have just made courtesy of Senator Xenophon’s amendments, there are still significant exclusions.

These amendments work in particular to ensure that any ministerial direction given to the ACCC regarding the criteria for acceptance of a functional separation or a structural separation would be a disallowable instrument and therefore subject to the scrutiny of this place and of course the other place. They are fairly straightforward amendments; they simply propose to replace the words ‘in writing’ in a number of places with ‘in a legislative instrument’ and in other places they strike out the words that specify in particular that a direction of the minister is not a legislative instrument. We believe that that level of transparency and accountability is valid for an arrangement of this significance, that it is appropriate that it should be brought to this place and the other place and that members and senators should at the very least have a chance to see whether a ministerial direction is a reasonable direction, that it does provide for the types of protections that Senator Joyce and others have raised and that it does ensure we get a competitive outcome, not a sweetheart deal.