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Call for cross-party support for new Telstra inquiry.



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DEMOCRATS

MEDIA 05/112

FRIDAY, 11 FEBRUARY 2005

SENATOR JOHN CHERRY AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS COMMUNICATIONS SPOKESPERSON

Call for cross-party support for new Telstra inquiry The Australian Democrats will back Labor's call for a wide ranging Senate inquiry into the effectiveness of the regulation of telecommunications and have called for the Liberal and National parties to back the inquiry in the national interest.

Democrats Communications spokesperson and Chair of the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee, Senator John Cherry, said the inquiry would put into the public domain the deep concerns held by regulators, consumer and industry groups with the adequacy of the current regulatory system.

"With the Government and the National party both conducting behind the scenes reviews of telecommunications policy, it is time to give the public a say on this vital issue and the Senate is the right body to do it," he said.

"This inquiry can provide sound advice to the new Senate on the shortcoming of current competition laws which have allowed Telstra to largely get its own way over the ACCC.

"I'd like to see the National party, which has not participated in any of the Committee's inquiries into Telstra, nominate a member to participate in this important and timely review.

"It will also focus on the failure of the regulatory regime to deliver increased investment in telecommunications infrastructure by Telstra. Since the Government's self-regulation regime started in 1997, Telstra's investment in infrastructure has fallen sharply compared to its revenue.

"Yesterday, the Senate Communications Committee reported on a new law to merge the ABA and the ACA into the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Democrat, Labor and Government members agreed on 11 of the 18 recommendations to improve the ACMA.

"The two key findings were the need for the ACMA to have a much stronger pro-consumer focus than the current regulators, and to engage in a wide ranging strategic review of communications as its British counterpart - OFCOM - is now doing.

"While the Senate will get to consider the powers of ACMA in its establishing bill next week, the broader debate about the role of the ACCC and regulators is yet to occur and this new inquiry will bring all of that information together," he said.

Media contact for Senator Cherry - 07 3720 8999