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Thursday, 10 March 2005
Page: 1

Senator Conroy to move on the next day of sitting:

   That the matter of the performance of the Australian telecommunications regulatory regime be referred to the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee for inquiry and report by 23 June 2005, with the following terms of reference:

(1)   Whether the current telecommunications regulatory regime promotes competition, encourages investment in the sector and protects consumers to the fullest extent practicable, with particular reference to:

(a)   whether Part XIB of the Trade Practices Act 1974 deals effectively with instances of the abuse of market power by participants in the Australian telecommunications sector, and, if not, the implications of any inadequacy for participants, consumers and the competitive process;

(b)   whether Part XIC of the Trade Practices Act 1974 allows access providers to receive a sufficient return on investment and access seekers to obtain commercially viable access to declared services in practice, and whether there are any flaws in the operation of this regime;

(c)   whether there are any structural issues in the Australian telecommunications sector inhibiting the effectiveness of the current regulatory regime;

(d)   whether consumer protection safeguards in the current regime provide effective and comprehensive protection for users of services;

(e)   whether regulators of the Australian telecommunications sector are currently provided with the powers and resources required in order to perform their role in the regulatory regime;

(f)   the impact that the potential privatisation of Telstra would have on the effectiveness of the current regulatory regime;

(g)   whether the Universal Service Obligation (USO) is effectively ensuring that all Australians have access to reasonable telecommunications services and, in particular, whether the USO needs to be amended in order to ensure that all Australians receive access to adequate telecommunications services reflective of changes in technology requirements;

(h)   whether the current regulatory environment provides participants with adequate certainty to promote investment, most particularly in infrastructure such as optical fibre cable networks;

(i)   whether the current regulatory regime promotes the emergence of innovative technologies;

(j)   whether it is possible to achieve the objectives of the current regulatory regime in a way that does not require the scale and scope of regulation currently present in the sector; and

(k)   whether there are any other changes that could be made to the current regulatory regime in order to better promote competition, encourage investment or protect consumers.

(2)   That the committee make recommendations for legislative amendments to rectify any weaknesses in the current regulatory regime identified by the committee’s inquiry.

Senator ELLISON (Western Australia —Minister for Justice and Customs) [9:31 AM] —I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:

   That the provisions of paragraphs (5) to (8) of standing order 111 not apply to the following bills, allowing them to be considered during this period of sittings:

Appropriation (Tsunami Financial Assistance) Bill 2004-2005

Appropriation (Tsunami Financial Assistance and Australia-Indonesia Partnership) Bill 2004-2005.

I also table a statement of reasons justifying the need for these bills to be considered during these sittings and seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows—

APPROPRIATION (TSUNAMI FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE) BILL 2004-2005

APPROPRIATION (TSUNAMI FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE AND AUSTRALIA-INDONESIA PARTNERSHIP) BILL 2004-2005

Purpose of the bills

These supplementary appropriation bills request legislative authority for additional expenditure in 2004-2005. Passage of the bills in the 2005 Autumn Sittings will allow funds to be made available to agencies, thereby enabling timely implementation of the government’s response to the South Asian Tsunami.

Reasons for Urgency

Unless new expenditure authority is in place in a timely manner, it will not be possible to implement the government’s response to the South Asian Tsunami.