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Monday, 9 December 2002
Page: 7373

Senator ALSTON (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (1:26 PM) —Just to be clear, we are not in any shape or form suggesting that the minister ought to be able to override the clear objects of the act, which of course include the long-term interests of end users. To the extent that the minister is able to give the ACCC any guidance, it will simply be in the context of making it aware of the government's views and asking the ACCC to take them into account. That is pretty harmless stuff. It is really just saying: `This is what we think; have a good look at it.' Otherwise, it might be unaware of some matters. None of us have perfect information from all sources, and this is simply designed to provide the ACCC with that level of awareness.

I want to make it clear that the minister will not be able to direct the ACCC to take into account matters that it could not in any case have regard to in deciding whether to approve an ex ante undertaking or grant an ex ante exemption. Nor will the minister be able to direct the ACCC to give particular weight to a matter notified in the minister's instrument. The proposed formal notification procedure will provide a transparent and accountable statutory mechanism for the minister to bring particular matters to the ACCC's attention. The minister's notification is also subject to parliamentary scrutiny and disallowance.