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Notice given 6 September 2005

1148  Senator Allison: To ask the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts—

(1) Can the Minister clarify a recent statement that the Government will ensure services to customers in areas of ‘market failure’ after full privatisation of Telstra.

(2) Are ‘areas of market failure’ determined by the Government to be in: (a) rural; (b) remote; or (c) metropolitan, areas.

(3) What is the Government’s definition of ‘market failure’.

(4) To what extent and how does the Government consider that the privatisation of the Telstra environment will facilitate competition in areas of ‘market failure’.

(5) Has the Government accepted that areas of ‘market failure’, however defined, are never likely to attract competition.

(6) Does the Government agree that the commitment to ensure services to customers in areas of ‘market failure’ provides a perverse incentive for Telstra to: (a) withhold or diminish services in these areas; and (b) impede efforts by competitors to set up service provision in these areas.

(7) What is the extent of ‘market failure’ that has been caused by Telstra’s prevention of other businesses from setting up services.

(8) How will the Government deal with the well-documented cases of Telstra pushing small competitors out of business when they try to establish competing businesses, particularly in regional areas in, for example, Crookwell, Bungendore and Albury-Wodonga.

(9) How will the Government deal with excessive regulatory gaming by Telstra, whereby it effectively delays or prevents access by competitors to declared services.

(10) What is the Government’s estimation of the effect of the proposed additional regulation on: (a) Telstra’s annual profits; and (b) Telstra’s share price.


 (11) Does the Government have a conflict of interest in protecting the shareholders from the cost of additional regulation and ensuring consumers receive the benefits of modern telecommunications infrastructure and services; if so, to what extent.

(12) How will the Government reconcile the mutually exclusive objective of providing for effective regulation of telecommunications and maximising Telstra’s share price.

(13) How will the Government ensure that the operational separation model for Telstra creates an incentive for Telstra to treat its retail arm and its competitors equitably.

(14) How will the Government ensure that Telstra does not operate its retail arm at a loss by charging high wholesale prices to itself and competitors.

(15) Will the Government give the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) divestiture powers in case operational separation fails.

(16) What were the reasons for structural separation of Telstra not being considered in the package.

(17) Does the Government agree that the fact that Telstra is vertically integrated is the single most important factor in Australia being ranked 21st in broadband penetration in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Communications Outlook, 2005.

(18) How does Australia compare with other OECD countries in terms of the rate of penetration of broadband, as opposed to the current rate of uptake.

(19) Does the Government acknowledge that Australia’s rate of uptake is relatively high because it starts from a very low base compared with other OECD countries.

(20) How does the Government’s definition of ‘broadband’ differ from other countries in the OECD.

(21) What will the Government do about the obvious weakness of the anti-competitive conduct regime in the Trade Practices Act as demonstrated by the ACCCs experience with the Telstra broadband pricing competition notice.

(22) What will the Government do to make it easier for Telstra’s competitors to get access to reasonably-priced backhaul.

(23) How will the Government ensure that people in regional areas where there is no competition receive better broadband services as standards improve in metropolitan areas.

(24) What safeguards will the Government put in place to ensure that money put aside for regional areas will: (a) not simply fall back into Telstra’s hands so as to cement its monopoly in regional areas; and (b) be applied equitably and not directed to Coalition or marginal electorates.