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Monday, 9 December 2002
Page: 7370

Senator LUNDY (1:14 PM) —The Democrats' amendments modify the operation of the new provisions for the automatic expiry date of declarations every five years. The amendments ensure that the ACCC must, by way of a public inquiry, make a positive decision about whether to extend, revoke or vary a declaration during the 12-month period prior to the five-year declaration expiry date. Under the original bill, the ACCC needed to hold a public inquiry only if they wished to extend the declaration. If the declaration automatically expires or is varied, there is no provision for any hearing at all. We will be opposing the Democrats' amendments.

We are opposed to the automatic expiry of a declaration after five years, as we feel that this period is too short to provide for industry and regulatory certainty. For instance, the Senate inquiry received evidence pointing to the fact that many commercial contracts in the communications industries extend beyond five years. It would also mean that the ACCC is bogged down in constant regulatory reviews of access declarations. In any case, the ACCC has the power to revoke declarations that have become outdated, as happened with the AMPS service under the current access regime. Whilst I think that the Democrats' amendments are well intentioned, in effect they further increase the burden on the ACCC to hold regular inquiries regarding access declarations.

I foreshadow Labor's amendment to extend the sunset period for access declarations to 10 years. Labor feels that this provides a far more sensible solution to this dilemma. It is a simple amendment that accepts the government's premise that access declarations need a defined expiry period, but it provides for a period more acceptable to the general terms of contracts that occur in the industry, and I think it is more appropriate for the efficient regulatory oversight of the industry.