Conroy: Minchin's manipulations will hurt consumers

Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy has condemned his former opposite number, Senator Nick Minchin, for forcing the Telstra separation bill to be delayed until February next year, saying consumers will be worse off as a result.

Speaking to journalists after opening NICTA's new facilities in Sydney, Conroy said the delay showed "how irrelevant the opposition and Nick Minchin have been to the Australian public".

"To have opposed this bill and have it lost behind Nick Minchin's personal agenda to bring Malcolm Turnbull down is very disappointing," Conroy said. "It is Australian consumers that are worse off — there is less choice, less innovation and less consumer protection because this bill hasn't been passed and that is what people tend to lose sight of.

"They get all excited around the issues around Telstra but this was a bill largely about improving consumer protection, creating the avenue for more choice and creating the avenue for more innovation. That is what has been lost here."

Conroy, had said he wanted the legislation passed by the end of the year but with the ETS and Liberal party shake up overshadowing the rest of the agenda, he now has to wait until February 2 when both houses of parliament resume.

The minister said the bill will be put up for debate when the Senate resumes sitting while negotiations with Telstra continue. He would not, however, expand on the status of those discussions.

"We'll still be putting this up in February and we still believe it will be passed. In terms of how it will impact on the discussions with Telstra, as we have said when tabling the legislation, discussions commenced before the legislation was tabled and they are commencing irrespective of whether the bill had been passed this week or not. Those discussions continue to be constructive and we still believe we will have a very positive announcement as we get closer to Christmas."

The minister's comments come after SAP chief, Tim Ebbeck, called on the government to take the lead on the NBN and Optus CEO, Paul O'Sullivan said the NBN was quot;do or diequot; for competition in the telecommunications market.

Telstra, however, has said it will oppose the bill.

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