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Thursday, 21 March 2013
Page: 2890

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (09:07): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Consumer Protection) Bill 2013 introduces important amendments to telecommunications legislation to strengthen consumer safeguards and improve the telecommunications co-regulatory framework.

Every year, Australians become more reliant on their telephones and internet connections to underpin their everyday activities, so it is essential that they can have any problems with these services fixed quickly and with minimal fuss.

For this reason the government has taken a number of steps over the past five years, to strengthen consumer safeguards.

For example, we have established the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network to champion the interests of consumers, and bolstered consumer protection laws with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

We have also overseen the revision of vital consumer protection codes including the Mobile Premium Services Code and the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code.

This bill introduces important amendments to further strengthen consumer protections.

The bill enhances the operational efficiency of the Do Not Call Register Act 2006 by clarifying the meaning of 'cause' in that act, in relation to the party responsible for making a telemarketing call or sending a marketing fax.

This important change provides the industry regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, with more effective enforcement powers in relation to unsolicited telemarketing calls and marketing faxes.

This bill also amends the Telecommunications Act 1997 to increase the responsiveness of industry codes to emerging telecommunications issues.

These amendments enable industry codes to be varied, rather than being required to be replaced in their entirety, subject to the approval of the ACMA.

The bill also extends the reimbursement scheme for developing consumer related industry codes to also apply to variations of those codes.

The amendments also improve the transparency and accountability of code development processes, by requiring submissions and draft codes to be published on the code developer's website.

The bill also introduces amendments developed in response to recommendations of a 2012 review of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) scheme.

These amendments aim to provide greater regulatory clarity around the TIO's role and its expected standards of operation.

The bill requires the TIO scheme to comply with standards determined by legislative instrument made by the minister, and for the scheme to be independently reviewed.

Such reviews must provide for consultation with the public, the TIO and the ACMA.

A final review report must be published on the TIO's website, and the TIO must respond to any review recommendations within six months of receiving the report.

The amendments in the bill ensure that the TIO scheme continues to operate as a best practice alternative dispute resolution scheme for the telecommunications industry.

The amendments in the bill have the support of industry, the industry regulator, consumer advocates and other industry stakeholders.

The passage of the bill reinforces the government's commitment to ensuring the interests of consumers are maintained and the level of community safeguards is appropriate in a telecommunications environment which is continually changing and converging.

I commend this bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.