MEDIA RELEASE - AFTER TWO LONG YEARS THE ACMA REVIEW EMERGES FROM THE FIFIELD TRIANGLE - 22 MAY 2017

Labor notes the long-delayed release of the ACMA Review final report, but questions why it has taken the Government so long to release a review of such modest and unremarkable substance. 

The irony of Recommendation 21 should not be lost upon anyone:

“That timeliness of (the ACMA’s) decision-making be established as a key area of focus and accountability.”

Malcolm Turnbull commenced the ACMA Review on 12 June 2015 in the midst of a deregulatory fervour. Of course, this review was inevitably caught in the ‘Fifield Triangle’ — a mysterious vortex of drift — which has the undeniable effect of slowing down processes for years at a time.

The underlying problem was that this Government never really knew why it commenced the ACMA review in the first place, and neither did stakeholders. It was genuine reform that was needed first, because that would enable the design of a regulator to better promote the objectives of principles-based legislation. The importance and urgency of the reform task is highlighted by the executive summary:

“The ageing regulatory regime maintains a distinction in many areas between technologies which no longer exist and places excessive emphasis on traditional sectors to achieve public policy outcomes. This distorts investment decisions and the incentives to innovate for local businesses, especially when faced with increasing competition from overseas based OTT services.” 

Labor welcomes Recommendation 27, which is a concession that the Government’s piecemeal approach is not delivering for the sector. The Government has “supported” this recommendation but is yet to offer any details about the process.

Recommendation 4, which proposes the Department be head of delegation for international spectrum policy forums, is one example that illustrates the Government’s ongoing confusion about institutional responsibilities and capabilities in spectrum management.

What is needed is an expert and properly resourced regulator , however the 2017-18 Budget made no provision for preparatory work for spectrum review implementation by the ACMA. Without proper funding, spectrum reform may suffer in terms of quality and speed.

There remain fundamental questions about what type of regulator the Government wants the ACMA to be, and how independent it should be in exercising its responsibilities. This area requires improvement and the unnecessary duration of the review has only added to existing challenges.

Labor will examine the recommendations of the final report to ensure a future ACMA is well positioned to support the sector and consumers.