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Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Page: 13310


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:49): On behalf of the Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications, I seek leave to make a statement on the inquiry into the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency Bill 2011, the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Universal Service Reform) Bill 2011 and the Telecommunications (Industry Levy) Bill 2011, in discharge of the committee's requirement to provide an advisory report on the bills, and to present a copy of my statement.

Leave granted.

Ms BIRD: The committee has endorsed the contents of this statement. On 2 November 2011, the following bills were introduced into the House: the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency Bill 2011, the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Universal Service Reform) Bill 2011 and the Telecommunications (Industry Levy) Bill 2011. The TUSMA Bill forms part of a package of legislation to achieve continuity of key telecommunications safeguards in the transition to the National Broadband Network. On 3 November 2011, the bills were referred by the Selection Committee to the House Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications for inquiry. On the same date, the bills were referred to by the Selection of Bills Committee to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications. The deadline for submissions to that committee is 2 December 2011 and the reporting date has been set for 27 February 2012.

I would like to advise the House of the work undertaken on the bills to date and our suggestion for their further consideration by the parliament. On 23 June 2011, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy sought public comment on the proposed legislative reform package via the release of a discussion paper entitled Universal service obligation legislative reform for transition to the National Broadband Network. By the submission cut-off date of 8 August 2011, the DBCDE had received 16 submissions from various telecommunications providers and other stakeholders, including the Queensland government and the National Farmers Federation. All submissions are available on the department's website.

As has been noted, the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications has already adopted an inquiry based on the referral of the bills. It is calling for public submissions and has a reporting date.

It is the view of the committee that an inquiry conducted by this committee would unnecessarily duplicate the inquiry process concurrently being undertaken by the Senate committee. As has been noted in the House by chairs of other House committees, this committee welcomes the opportunity to examine bills referred to it by the House and indeed has already conducted an inquiry into legislation as part of its work during this parliament. It is important, however, that inquiries be conducted in a manner which is both timely and constructive. Where both houses are inquiring into the same legislation at the same time, those individuals and organisations who are interested in participating may wonder why they are being asked to present their views twice in two different review processes. The committee therefore recommends that the bills be further considered by the parliament.