Coalition to "consider" amended Telstra split bill

 

Seeks more cost-effective way to divide Telstra.

Shadow Communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said it would "carefully consider" the Telstra split bill re-introduced to parliament today.

In a statement, Turnbull said the Coalition was supportive of "key parts" of the legislation but reserved the right to move amendments when the legislation was debated.

Turnbull last week indicated he would support the separation of Telstra.

Turnbull said the Coalition supported an access regime that "balanced the interests of access seekers and carriers", stronger consumer protections and clarity on "the operation of the Universal Service Obligation".

It sought "appropriate checks and balances" to any strengthening of ACCC powers and said it would oppose any attempt to punish Telstra for not agreeing to separation - a key part of the first iteration of the legislation.

However, that outcome appeared unlikely given Telstra's management has agreed to structural separation in an $11 billion deal with NBN Co, not to mention Telstra's statement of support for the new bill today.

"The Coalition will respond in detail to other clauses of the revised bill related to the separation of Telstra and the proposed NBN Co/Telstra deal after further consideration," Turnball said today.

Turnbull reiterated to journalists in Canberra that while the NBN did achieve structural separation, it came at a high price compared to other, less expensive options.

"We have to look at what we are trying to achieve, and whether we can more cost-effectively achieve it in another way," Turnbull said.

He criticised the NBN for reversing a downward trend in telecommunications prices and called on the Productivity Commission to investigate the issue as part of a cost-benefit analysis he wanted it to undertake.

"We have seen year after year for the past decade significant decreases in the price of telecommunications," Turnbull said.

"This monopoly company [NBN Co] is going to be hugely capitalised. That will compel management to charge higher prices than if [the build] had been done for $10 billion or $20 billion.

"The McKinsey [implementation study] talked about prices going up. So prices have been going down over the past decade, the NBN is created, and then the prices start to go back up again.

"Surely this is another thing the Productivity Commission needs to look at."

Blocking

Turnbull also addressed criticism by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy that he was attempting to block the NBN's progress by seeking to impose a seven-month cost benefit analysis on the project and asking for the project to be overseen by a Senate Committee.

Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese - representing Conroy - attacked Turnbull and the Coalition in Parliament today over the proposals laid out in Turnbull's Private Members Bill, put forward yesterday.

"There have been a range of proposals for us to delay this project - wait for ACCC advice, the implementation study, the response to the implementation study and one of five senate inquiries that have produced five separate reports," Albanese said.

"Now we're told we should wait for a seven month-long Productivity Commission inquiry even though the proponent of this inquiry won't give [a result] any notice. Whether the Commission gives [NBN] a tick or not. [Turnbull] will just continue to oppose it.

"We're also told we need a Joint Select Committee to oversee the NBN rollout. So we don't have experts overseeing the rollout of NBN. The new development of those opposite is that infrastructure rollouts should be overseen by Senate Committees."

Turnbull said the Coalition "comprehensively rejected the suggestions".

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