Malcolm Turnbull has accused Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, of bullying the telecommunications industry, during an interview with ABC Radio on Friday morning.
The Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband said Conroy adopts an "arrogant and bullying attitude" and tries to intimidate people into not criticising government policy, saying there were no excuses for nasty and arrogant language.
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"This is the Minister who said in New York not so long ago that he was so powerful that if he told telecom executives that they had to wear red underpants on their heads when they next came to meet him, they would do so because he was so awesome in his magnificent power," Turnbull told ABC Radio's AM program.
"And so a minister that flaunts his power and seeks to bully the industry is really doing a lot of damage both to the credibility of the government, the standing of Australia, the perception investors have of Australia."
The remarks followed Conroy's attack against Vodafone Hutchison Australia's CEO, accusing him of acting like former Telstra chief executive Sol Trujillo, according to the Australian Financial Review.
"They lost 750,000 customers due to poor service and they want to lecture to everybody, they want to cut those people off. They are doing a good enough job of that themselves," Conroy reportedly told an industry event.
Conroy's comments were in response to an opinion piece in the AFR by Vodafone's CEO, Bill Morrow, stating that the "policy playbook" needs to be reworked to meet changing consumer needs and expectations.
"Industry must re-evaluate how we deliver mobile services, build infrastructure and fund coverage expansions in a unique market, while governments must review the out-dated policy constructs that inhibit growth and stifle innovation," Morrow wrote.
Morrow called for a revision of universal service agreements, which provide subsidies to Telstra for its fixed line phone network, as mobile use becomes more prevalent and fixed lines are used less.
"In the past, governments have funded individual mobile carriers to increase their mobile coverage. This has restricted consumers of other networks benefiting from taxpayer-funded projects. Industry and government need to find new ways to work together to deliver better mobile services and facilitate the growth of the economy," Morrow wrote.
Turnbull declined to comment on whether the Coalition might revisit universal service agreements if it wins the next election.
"Making changes to it is not particularly straightforward and it's something that I'd reserve a view on until, probably until if and when we were in government when we could have access to all of the financial information," he said.
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