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Wednesday, 7 June 1989
Page: 3504


Senator ALSTON(10.13) —I move:

Page 2, paragraphs 4 (2) (a) to (d), , lines 8 to 14, leave out the paragraphs.

The Opposition moves this one amendment to the Telecommunications (Application Fees) Bill in relation to the payment of fees. The whole reason for this Bill is to justify the excessively bureaucratic structure which has now been put in place, requiring the granting of permits, variations of permits and licences, supposedly in the name of regulating the industry. But from our perspective, and I believe from the perspective of the market, it is a cumbersome and unnecessary approach.

There are essentially two ways that one can go in seeking to scrutinise an industry which is dynamic and fast moving. One is to take the bureaucratic approach, whereby we keep a piece of paper attached to everything that moves and closely scrutinise any changes which might be sought by way of application for variation of licences and permits. The other way is to stand back and take essentially the market approach, which would involve simply taking action where it is necessary. We do not see that there are any players in the game who are likely to transgress deliberately. To the extent that they accidentally did so, they would be very susceptible to advice proffered by Austel. If they were to disregard such advice, they could clearly have action taken against them by way of Federal Court injunctions or actions for damages in due course by any one of the carriers. We think that regime would effectively ensure that there was proper scrutiny of the industry and, therefore, an adequate degree of supervision. We do not think the bureaucratic solution, which involves a whole series of permits, licences and variations, is necessary. This Bill is just a self-serving excuse to justify that regime by imposing licence fees which can then be used to fund the additional public servants who will be required to supervise the licences. Therefore, we have moved that paragraphs 4 (2) (a) to 4 (2) (d) inclusive be deleted from clause 4. That would mean that there would not be a need for the payment of fees in respect of value added services, private network services, or customer premise equipment, or, indeed, for variation or registration of those services.

Of course, we understand that if one is committed to such a regime, one will obviously want to tax it to garner revenue to fund that bureaucratic solution. The Government and the Democrats have combined to ensure that that sort of regime remains in place. Nonetheless, we want to make it clear that we do not approve of that solution or see the need for the payment of fees. We would certainly move accordingly.