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Tuesday, 6 June 1989
Page: 3399


Senator ALSTON(11.20) —I move:

(1) Page 2, after subparagraph 3 (a), insert the following new paragraph:

``(aa) promoting and maintaining effective competition between persons engaged in the commercial supply of telecommunications services in Australia;''.

This amendment provides for the insertion in the charter of Telecom Australia, by way of an expansion of the objects of the Act, a paragraph which would lead to a more pro-competitive outcome. It seems odd to us that the objects of the Act should include a whole range of matters, including ensuring the basic service, maximising efficiency, achieving the highest possible levels of accountancy, optimising rates of expansion and modernisation, enabling all sectors of the telecommunications industry to participate effectively and promoting the development of other sectors of the economy through low prices. But nowhere is there any commitment to competition. We see this as an indication that the Government's ideological slip is showing. It clearly regards competition as a dirty word.

The forces that drive the Australian Labor Party are obviously much more interested in notions of efficiency because they can be achieved behind public sector walls. To talk in terms of competition frightens the troops because it means that competition can derive from outside the parapets. That is anathema to many sections of the Labor Party. Nonetheless, we do not regard competition as an ideological tool. It is simply good sound commonsense. It got a very grudging mention in the second reading speech of the Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs (Senator Robert Ray). We see no reason why it should not be included in the objects of the Act.