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Wednesday, 16 March 2005
Page: 45

Senator CHERRY (12:17 PM) —I am very pleased to jointly move this amendment with Senator Conroy. It was a very important issue that came out of the Senate committee inquiry. In fact, almost every witness from either the consumer or industry sectors expressed concern that ACMA was not being tasked with the role of doing a review or some sort of an inquiry into itself, its role in the world and the challenges posed by convergence and the merger. If we do not engage in a process like this, there really is no point in doing a merger. If we are going to get the synergies that can develop, close some of the problems and loopholes that develop in regulation and look at what the challenges are from convergence, then we really have to give the organisation the capacity to actually do that in a holistic and far-ranging way—and that is one of the most exciting things that Ofcom has been doing.

The result of Ofcom’s strategic review—their issues paper was released in December—is extraordinarily exciting. The sorts of issues that they are dealing with and identifying are way beyond anything which any of the political parties or government departments in the UK have been prepared to deal with to date. We need that in Australia because there are significant holes in our regulatory regime and in our understanding of how industry operates. ACMA is probably the best-placed organisation to do that because they are the new kid on the block, trying to find out how they are going to operate in this new environment. The issues in this amendment are the bare minimum that need to be addressed, as Senator Conroy said, and would ensure that we get something positive out of this bill, not just a reshuffling of fax letterheads in terms of who is doing the regulation.