Ministers for the Department of Communications and the Arts

Joint Release with The Hon. Paul Fletcher MP: Deregulation of communications sector a boost for productivity

19 March 2014

The Australian Government has removed more than 1,000 pages of burdensome regulation in the Communications portfolio, saving the sector an expected $35 million per year. This is the first step in the Government’s agenda to boost productivity and innovation.

A significant proportion of the Omnibus Repeal Day (Autumn 2014) Bill is made up of measures from the Communications portfolio. This will contribute to the Government’s overall goal of removing $1 billion in the cost of unnecessary regulation from the economy each year.

Media and telecoms companies are among the most heavily regulated in the economy – and yet they are sectors at the forefront of technological change, which has brought increased levels of competition and choice for consumers.

Both sectors are subject to a regulatory framework established in the 1990s, based on stable technologies and old business models.

The Government is in the process of reviewing every piece of regulation in the sector and asking whether they still serve a useful purpose and whether they could otherwise be fulfilled by more efficient and simpler means. The Government will retain important community and consumer safeguards—this is about better outcomes for business and consumers now and in the future.

Key measures announced today include:

  • Repealing obsolete sections of telecommunications regulationthat were superseded by a stronger, industry-led consumer protection code in 2012. Carriers no longer need to maintain duplicate summaries for each product or service.
  • Amendments to streamline reporting requirements that force telecommunications carriers and carriage service providers to lodge extensive amounts of contract documentation and notices with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
  • Broadening the ACMA’s discretion so they can determine if they investigate complaints. This allows the ACMA to focus its resources on complaints of a more serious nature, including those that might indicate systemic problems.
  • Repealing a number of Telstra’s record-keeping rules – particularly those relating to accounting separation – that are no longer necessary as it moves towards structural separation. This will reduce a significant administrative burden, both on Telstra and the ACCC.
  • Giving the ACMA the discretion to exempt smaller commercial radio broadcasting licensees and commercial television broadcasting licensees from submitting audited accounts. In addition, the requirement for controllers of certain media assets to report annually to the ACMA on changes to the control of commercial broadcasting licences and newspapers will be removed.

Since the election the Government has also reduced the burden of regulation on the telecommunications sector by streamlining identity checks for prepaid mobile services, amending the permit process for submarine cables and simplifying telecommunications industry code arrangements.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority is also assisting the Government on delivering on its regulatory reform agenda. The ACMA has already revoked 46 redundant instruments and is already well progressed in removing unnecessary reporting requirements across a range of instruments.

The Government has consulted widely with companies, consumer advocates and regulators in the communication sector to ensure we get these measures right.

There is strong support for the Government’s deregulation agenda. We are committed to protecting the Australian public and have kept telecommunication consumer safeguards in place.

In the longer term real reform will only be achieved through careful consideration of a vast range of complex policy issues.

The Government is working closely with the sector and has received constructive feedback that is assisting in deciding the priorities for reform and the appropriate process and timing for considering these more complex issues.

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