Terms of Reference

Inquiry into the performance of the Australian telecommunications regulatory regime

Terms of Reference

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The Senate has referred the following matters to the Committee for inquiry and report:

(1) Whether the current telecommunications regulatory regime promotes competition, encourages investment in the sector and protects consumers to the fullest extent practicable, with particular reference to:

(a) whether Part XIB of the Trade Practices Act 1974 deals effectively with instances of the abuse of market power by participants in the Australian Telecommunications sector, and, if not, the implications of any inadequacy for participants, consumers and the competitive process;

(b) whether Part XIC of the Trade Practices Act 1974 allows access providers to receive a sufficient return on investment and access seekers to obtain commercially viable access to declared services in practice, and whether there are any flaws in the operation of this regime;

(c) whether there are any structural issues in the Australian telecommunications sector inhibiting the effectiveness of the current regulatory regime;

(d) whether consumer protection safeguards in the current regime provide effective and comprehensive protection for users of services;

(e) whether regulators of the Australian telecommunications sector are currently provided with the powers and resources required in order to perform their role in the regulatory regime;

(f) the impact that the potential privatisation of Telstra would have on the effectiveness of the current regulatory regime;

(g) whether the Universal Service Obligation (USO) is effectively ensuring that all Australians have access to reasonable telecommunications services and, in particular, whether the USO needs to be amended in order to ensure that all Australians receive access to adequate telecommunications services reflective of changes in technology requirements;

(h) whether the current regulatory environment provides participants with adequate certainty to promote investment, most particularly in infrastructure such as optical fibre cable networks;

(i) whether the current regulatory regime promotes the emergence of innovative technologies;

(j) whether it is possible to achieve the objectives of the current regulatory regime in a way that does not require the scale and scope of regulation currently present in the sector; and

(k) whether there are any other changes that could be made to the current regulatory regime in order to better promote competition, encourage investment or protect consumers.

(2) That the committee make recommendations for legislative amendments to rectify any weaknesses in the current regulatory regime identified by the committee's inquiry.

The Committee was asked to report by 23 June 2005. On 21 June 2005 the reporting date was extended to 9 August 2005.

The Committee invites written submissions from interested individuals and organisations, preferably in electronic form sent by email, to ecita.sen@aph.gov.au. The email must include full postal address and contact details.

Alternatively, submissions may be sent to The Secretary, Senate Environment, Communications Information Technology and the Arts References Committee Parliament House, CANBERRA ACT 2600, or faxed to 02 6277 5818.

Submissions must be received by no later than Friday, 8 April 2005.

Submissions become committee documents and are made public only after a decision by the Committee. Persons making submissions must not release them without the approval of the Committee. Submissions are covered by parliamentary privilege but the unauthorised release of them is not.

Inquiries from hearing and speech impaired people should be directed to the Parliament House TTY number (02) 6277 7799. Adobe also provides tools for the blind and visually impaired to access PDF documents. These tools are available at: http://access.adobe.com/. If you require any special arrangements in order to enable you to participate in a committee inquiry, please contact the committee secretary.

For further information, contact:

Committee Secretary
Senate Standing Committees on Environment, Communications and the Arts
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: +61 2 6277 3526
Fax: +61 2 6277 5818
Email: ecita.sen@aph.gov.au