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The Government is committed to reducing the regulatory burden for business and the community.

This is a high priority and focus in the Communications portfolio. The Government's aim is to deliver real reform in the Communications portfolio through better regulation, which lowers the cost burden on business, while maintaining necessary consumer and other safeguards.

Real reform will only be achieved through careful consideration of a vast range of complex policy issues across the portfolio; therefore, deregulation needs to be a long-term process. The Government will work together with stakeholders to inform the approach on key reforms.

Policy Background Papers

As part of the Government's commitment to encouraging fit-for-purpose regulation, the Department of Communications publishes a series of occasional papers exploring regulatory arrangements in the communications portfolio. The series is intended to inform and contribute to discussion about regulatory arrangements that will achieve public policy outcomes, including maintaining important consumer safeguards, while minimising costs to industry.

  • Policy Background Paper No. 1: Deregulation in the Communications Portfolio (November 2013). This paper explores enduring concepts in communications regulation. It draws on current thinking to set out, at a high level, principles and concepts that might underpin assessment of communications policy and regulation, and guide a deregulatory agenda.
  • Policy Background Paper No. 2: Regulating Harms in the Australian Communications Sector (May 2014). This paper considers current and potential future regulatory frameworks, and the relative strengths and weaknesses of a range of interventions used to regulate the communications sector—black letter law as well as co and self-regulation. It challenges a perceived preference for co-regulation as the preferred regulatory model in the context of evolving technologies, business models and consumer expectations.
  • Policy Background Paper No. 3: Media Control and Ownership (June 2014). This paper examines the issue of media diversity in a contemporary digital environment. Media diversity refers to the ability of citizens to access and consume a wide range of viewpoints without any one media owner or controller exercising too much influence, and news content is particularly relevant in this regard. There is ongoing debate about the extent and form of regulations to support diversity in an environment where online services are rapidly changing the way in which news content is produced, distributed and consumed.  This paper seeks to further that discussion. It examines the current media diversity and control rules, their practical workings, and how they fit into a broader regulatory setting.

    Spectrum Review and Deregulation Agenda

    On 23 May 2014, the Minister for Communications announced a review of the spectrum policy and management framework. Established in 1992, the current framework led the world in how it dealt with the complexities of spectrum management. But today, more than 20 years later, the fast changing nature of technology has dated the framework. It needs to be modernised to reflect changes in technology, markets and consumer preferences that have occurred over the last decade and to better deal with increasing demand for spectrum from all sectors.

    The purpose of the review is to examine what policy and regulatory changes are needed to meet current challenges, and ensure the framework will serve Australia well into the future.

    In line with the Government's deregulation agenda, the review is seeking to simplify the framework. This will make it easier to administer as well as increase accessibility and reduce compliance costs for users. The review will consider opportunities for reducing regulation and non-legislative reform approaches where possible.

    See the Spectrum Review page.

    Proposed Telecommunications Deregulation Bill

    The Government has consulted with stakeholders on a number of measures for a proposed Telecommunications Deregulation Bill, which seek to reduce telecommunications regulation while maintaining or strengthening important consumer safeguards. The Government is, as a result of the consultation process, proposing reforms in areas such as Priority Assistance, Retail Price Controls and the Local Presence Plan.

    Further details are available at the Telecommunications Deregulation Bill No.1 2014 page.

    Economic analysis of retail price controls

    In February 2014 the Department of Communications engaged the Centre for International Economics (CIE) to undertake an economic analysis of retail price controls that currently apply to a number of fixed line services provided by Telstra.

    Retail price controls were introduced in 1989, to restrain Telstra’s pricing power. Since their introduction, there have been substantial market developments for telecommunications services both in terms of the number of market competitors and the development of communications substitutes for fixed line services such as VOIP and mobile services.

    The purpose of the economic analysis was to provide advice to Government on the future arrangements of retail price controls within the context of the Government’s broader deregulatory agenda.

    The report concludes that with the development of a competitive retail market for telecommunications services, retail price controls are no longer necessary.

    Final Report

    Public Consultation on Deregulation Initiatives in the Communications Sector

    The Australian Government is committed to boosting productivity by reducing the cost to Australian business of red and green tape by $1 billion a year. The Minister for Communications, the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull, has asked organisations across the communications sector for initial advice on areas where regulation could be streamlined or removed. Stakeholders have provided extensive advice that will assist in developing regulatory reform options for 2014 and beyond. A number of stakeholders have agreed to make their submissions public, to promote discussion of ideas for regulatory reform across the sector.

    SUBMISSIONS

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