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Australian and Overseas Telecommunications Corporation Bill 1991



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House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Transport and Communications

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Purpose

To provide for the acquisition of the businesses of Telecom and OTC by the Australian and Overseas Telecommunications Corporation (AOTC) and the regulation of charges for telecommunication services or facilities supplied by Telecom, OTC or AOTC.

Background

Refer to the Digest for the Telecommunications Bill 1991.

Main Provisions

The Commonwealth is not to transfer any of its shares in AOTC and neither the Commonwealth or AOTC are to do anything that results in the Commonwealth no longer holding and controlling the shares of AOTC (clause 8).

Clause 9 will allow the Minister to give, in relation to the exercise of AOTCs powers and after consultation with the Board of AOTC, any directions that appear to the Minister necessary in the public interest. The Minister is not to give a direction about amounts to be charged for work done, or services, goods or information supplied, by AOTC (note: this limitation will not affect the Minister's power under clauses 17-23 to set price control arrangements). Ministerial directions will override directions made by AUSTEL under the Telecommunications Bill 1991. Ministerial directions will have to be tabled in Parliament. It will be a duty of the Board of AOTC to ensure that AOTC complies with a Ministerial direction.

Clause 11 provides that AOTC will become the successor in law of Telecom and OTC and that all property, rights and liabilities of Telecom and OTC will become those of AOTC.

Part 6 of the Bill (clauses 17-23) deals with the regulation of charges for telecommunications services or facilities (carrier charges) by Telecom, OTC or AOTC (carriers). Subject to disallowance by Parliament, the Minister may determine that specified carrier charges are subject to price control arrangements (clause 18). Subject to disallowance by Parliament, the Minister may, where price control arrangements are operating, determine: price-cap and other price control arrangements; or the principles by which the carriers are to alter carrier changes; or both (clause 19). Clause 21 provides that, subject to disallowance by Parliament, the Minister may determine that specified carrier charges will be subject to notification and disallowance (note: basically, where a carrier charge is subject to notification and disallowance the Minister has a public interest ground discretion to disallow a proposed change to a carrier charge within 30 days). Clause 23 provides for the continued operation of existing price control arrangements. Part 6 of the Bill will have effect from 1 July 1991 (clause 2).

Clause 24 will provide that AOTC is not to be taken to have been established for a public purpose. This will make it exempt from a number of requirements, such as freedom of information.

AOTC will not be required to pay tax in connection with exempt matters (i.e. matters connected with the transfer of Telecom and OTC property, rights and liabilities to AOTC) (clause 25).

The Lands Acquisition Act 1989 (note: basically, this Act provides for the regulation of the acquisition by the Commonwealth of land required for public purposes and the payment of compensation) will not apply to AOTC dealings in land (clause 28).

AOTC will be exempt from the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee (clause 29).

Clause 30 provides that the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974, after a date set by the Minister, will not apply to AOTC (Note: In the Second Reading Speech to the Bill it is stated that environment protection matters will be addressed by the proposed National Code - see clauses 117 118 of the Telecommunications Bill 1991. The provisions of the National Code will be subject to disallowance by Parliament).

AOTC employees will be subject to State and Territory environment protection legislation (clause 33).

Staff of Telecom and OTC, other than directors, secretarys and auditors, are to continue to be employed by AOTC on the same terms and conditions (clause 38).

Bills Digest Service 20 May 1991

Parliamentary Research Service

For further information, if required, contact the Economics and Commerce Group on 06 2772460.

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

Commonwealth of Australia 1991

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1991.