Last July, the government IT Pricing Inquiry offered up a series of recommendations on how the very evident price disparities for technology services and products in Australia compared to other countries might be addressed. Is there any chance any of those recommendations might ever be implemented? The consensus answer, even from those in favour of the changes, seems to be “no”.
Money picture from Shutterstock
I raised the issue with shadow communications minister Jason Clare earlier this week. He pointed out that even though the whole committee — which had members from all sides of politics — endorsed the recommendations, that doesn’t mean anything will occur.
“Parliamentary procedures place no obligation on the Government to respond to the report,” he said. “In cases where Government has responded to enquiries by this Committee the response has been tabled approximately six months after the Committee reported.” In other words: even allowing for the election break, if something was going to happen it should have happened by now.
“Labor continues to be concerned about the price discrimination being shown against Australian consumers for IT products and services and urges the Government to respond to this important report,” Clare said. But the direction being pursued by the current Coalition government makes that seem unlikely. Far from exploring ideas such as removing geoblocking, it has raised controversial proposals to make ISPs enforce copyright laws through a “three strikes” system.
Labor MP Ed Husic, who was a key participant in the inquiry, doesn’t see much hope for change for that reason. Speaking on a panel about the inquiry in Canberra last week, he noted that the government seemed much keener to support overseas content creators than to pursue either the recommendations of the inquiry or the proposal from the Australian Law Reform Commission to add a fair use proposal to copyright law. “The recommendations are going to be facing an uphill battle. It looks like the shutters are pretty much being drawn down.”
I’ve consistently argued that the chances of the inquiry ever making a difference were slim, even if a change of government hadn’t happened soon after their release. If anyone is still hoping that we might see any of those changes happen, I’d suggest it’s time to give up and consider a new strategy. This ship has well and truly sailed.
Update: Ed Husic has responded further below, and he makes a good point about what might happen next in terms of strategy:
we have seen vendors respond because the focus of all that activity was to help send a clear signal that this market wasn’t prepared to bear the prices extended to us. Longer term, the big focus has to be finding competitive avenues to help boost choice for consumers and we should not turn away from that.