Now, the Turnbull government is about to introduce legislation into parliament to repeal the telecommunications-specific anti-competitive conduct laws of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 which came into force in 1997.
The proposed changes have already sparked an angry response from the Competitive Carriers Coalition which says the changes would effectively do away with protections against anti-competitive conduct by Telstra. The CCC also expressed surprise at the sudden announcement, claiming that Telstra was apparently the only company given advanced warning.
But, the government maintains the telecommunications sector has changed significantly in the past 20 years and competition is much further advanced than it was at that time, and is confident that broader competition law, it now proposes, will be “effective in preventing anti-competitive conduct in the telecommunications sector”.
“The telecommunications sector-specific anti-competitive conduct rules are set out in Divisions 2 and 3 of Part XIB of the Act. With some key elements of the Part XIB rules now being reflected in the proposed changes to section 46, it is an appropriate time to repeal the Part XIB rules and streamline regulation for the sector,” the statement notes.
“ Part XIB was introduced in 1997 to support the development of competition in the telecommunications sector. The rules were always intended to be transitional, supplementing generalcompetition law until competition grew and general competition law could apply.”
The government points to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) continuing with several other regulatory mechanisms available under the access regime in Part XIC of the same Act and Telstra's structural separation arrangements to address issues that may arise.
It says the ACCC also supports repeal of the provisions and also highlights the fact that the Harper Review of Australian competition law supported the consequential repeal of Divisions 2 and 3 if section 46 is amended as proposed.