Thursday, 24 November 2016 19:09

Government to do away with telecoms anti-competitive laws Featured

By
Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield

The federal government is repealing telecommunications anti-competitive laws originally imposed nearly 20 years ago to support the development of competition in the telecommunications sector.  

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 announcement on Thursday by Communications Minister Mitch Fifield says the proposed changes follow its decision to strengthen the general misuse of market power law in section 46 of the Act.

“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.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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