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Thursday, 13 May 2010
Page: 2835


Senator FISHER (5:39 PM) —It is good that we have got to this amended Do Not Call Register Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 now before the chamber, but it is bad that it has taken so much to get to this. What a waste in getting to this. What a waste of time. What a waste of money. What a waste of work. The government announced its Do Not Call Register proposition at budget time last year. It took them another six months to release discussion papers to start to get legislation drafted. What a waste of time, particularly when it is now incumbent upon this place to pass the bill with amendments to keep existing homeowners’ do-not-call registrations alive. What a waste.

What a waste that it took stakeholders; business, which was supposedly going to benefit from this bill; and the parliament, in particular the opposition and Senate committee processes, to do the homework that the government should have done but, as usual, failed to do in preparing the Do Not Call Register proposal without any sort of evidence based policy. Why all that waste when all this bill was ever based upon was a ministerial whim? That is what it was. In evidence given to Senate inquiries into the bill, Senator Conroy said:

It has been a particular concern of mine that unwanted and unsolicited calls and faxes are wasting valuable business resources …

He said that in an attempt to justify the proposition that businesses should be able to register themselves on the Do Not Call Register—a proposition which is now no longer part of the bill. I then asked:

Do you have evidence from business?

Senator Conroy said:

Businesses that choose to register their number clearly want protection against telemarketing calls. If they do not, then they do not have to.

That is code from Minister Conroy for ‘We will build it and they will come’—the same sort of code that he is using for the National Broadband Network. His faith was ‘Build the Do Not Call Register and they will come.’ Through the Senate committee process he finally learnt that business would not come. The Senate committee heard, ‘What conscientious CEO would care to register his or her business on the Do Not Call Register, effectively saying, “My business is closed for business”?’ Minister Conroy would have realised, had he done his homework, that the very businesses that were supposedly going to benefit from the Do Not Call Register would not have put themselves on the register in the first place.

He also would have realised that his proposition would not work, because the bill failed to distinguish between so-called telemarketing calls to business and normal business-to-business calls—so much so that pretty much every business making everyday commercial phone calls would have been forced to call a Do Not Call Register authority to check that the very business they wanted to call was not registered on the Do Not Call Register. This presented the absolutely absurd proposition that almost every business would have to call a register to see if a recipient of their call was on it when, in fact, the register would likely be empty. That was proven through the Senate committee process by the relevant department confessing, firstly, that they had no proof of how many businesses would register for the Do Not Call Register if the bill were to proceed in its original form. Secondly, they had no idea, no mapping and no cost-benefit analysis of the number of occasions on which a business wanting to make outgoing phone calls to another business would have to check with the Do Not Call Register, what it would cost them to do so, for what period of time a so-called washed list of numbers you could call would last and what the consequences of that would be. The government had not done its policy homework.

So we have wasted all this time and all this industry resource and effort essentially on a minister’s whim: ‘Let me build it and they will come.’ The Australian people are entitled to ask whether it will be exactly the same with the same minister and his ‘Let me build the National Broadband Network and they will come’.