Wednesday, 21 October 2009 12:51

Minchin a 'complete Luddite': Conroy

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Stephen Conroy, Federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, has branded his Opposition counterpart "a complete Luddite." The Opposition continues to delay telecommunications reform legislation.

Conroy described the Opposition's decision to continue to block the telecommunications legislation as "a real blow for Australian consumers."

Speaking at a doorstop media conference at Australian Parliament House, Conroy said the Government still intended to pass the legislation before the end of the year. "There is no reason whatsoever to delay," he asserted.

"I know there's been a majority of focus around the Telstra and the structural separation, voluntary separation argument. But this bill is a substantive piece of consumer legislation that dramatically strengthens consumer protections; and we won't be backing down on that," he added.

Shadow Minister Nick Minchin came in for particular criticism: "Nick Minchin is being exposed for being a complete Luddite," said the Minister.

"They are a rabble, and Nick Minchin and Malcolm Turnbull should get their act together and make a decision. Do you think they're going to support this or they're not going to support these consumer protections and improvements in legislation in the regulatory framework."

For his part, Minchin said "This legislation is predominantly about the Government trying to force Telstra and its 1.4 million shareholders to prop up Labor's $A43 billion NBN project."

What else did the squabbling pollies say? See page 2.


Minchin added "The NBN implementation study is not expected to be completed until next February and hopefully at that time the Government will be able to provide a greater level of clarity in relation to what the future telecommunications landscape may look like. Therefore it makes perfect sense to defer consideration of this legislation until that time."

Conroy retorted "[Waiting for] the implementation study is a furphy, it's a fig leaf that the Opposition are seeking to use to cover their lack of leadership."

"This is a system that is broken today, and this is legislation that begins to change the framework of the regulation in this sector to improve it for consumers," he added.

Conroy also noted that "They're not promising to pass it next year. They're not promising to support it next year. And let's be clear. They have no plan themselves, and they are simply trying to get away from the fact that they are divided yet again. This is a rabble, this [Opposition] leadership."

In response to questions concerning the Universal Service Obligation (USO) to locations that won't be covered by the fibre portion of the NBN, Conroy said the legislation strengthens the USO, which will continue to be funded by an industry levy.

However, he did say that the USO could in future only apply to premises not served by NBN fibre "if negotiations turn out in one particular form."

"No-one is proposing repealing the levy. No-one is proposing digging up phone lines and pulling them out. Only Nick Minchin," said Conroy.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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