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19    Communications— Telstra—Universal Service Obligation

Senator Leyonhjelm, pursuant to notice of motion not objected to as a formal motion, moved general business notice of motion no. 603—That the Senate—

               (a)       notes that:

                                     (i)       reviews conducted by the Regional Telecommunications Review Committee, the Productivity Commission and the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) have issued critical reports on the Universal Service Obligation (USO) - a 20-year contract under which almost $300 million in taxpayer and industry funding goes to Telstra each year with negligible transparency, accountability or controls,

                                    (ii)       Telstra appears to have shut down much of its regional copper wire and payphone infrastructure yet is still being paid almost $300 million a year to maintain these services under the USO,

                                  (iii)       the ANAO found that the Department of Communications (the Department) has been a relatively passive contract manager and has not used the flexibility mechanisms within the USO contract that have the potential to reduce the annual payment amounts to Telstra,

                                  (iv)       the ANAO found that neither the Australian Communications and Media Authority nor the Department undertakes assurance processes to verify the accuracy of the underlying performance data provided by Telstra,

                                   (v)       the Department has acknowledged that it does not know how much it costs annually for Telstra to provide these services, and

                                  (vi)       reduced expenditure on the USO could deliver vastly improved mobile services for farmers, businesses and communities in regional and rural Australia; and

               (b)       calls on the Minister for Communications to:

                                     (i)       instruct the Department to adopt the ANAO’s recommendation to determine if any of the existing flexibility mechanisms within the USO contract can be utilised to improve value for money outcomes, and

                                    (ii)       redirect any USO savings identified by the Department to fund further rounds of the Mobile Black Spot Program.

Statement by leave : The Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister (Senator McGrath), by leave, made a statement relating to the motion.

Question put and negatived.