Prime Minister Julia Gillard pays tribute to Michelle Grattan
Mobile phone providers on both sides of the Tasman have been issued a stern warning to slash their roaming prices or face regulations.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her NZ counterpart John Key have announced joint action to bring down often exorbitant roaming bills for calls, texts and data use when mobile phone users travel abroad.
The leaders met in Queenstown, New Zealand, on Saturday morning for bilateral discussions marking 30 years of close economic relations.
Ms Gillard said telcos were officially on notice to drop their roaming prices, before they would be forced to do so.
Both countries will introduce legislation to enable independent regulators - Australia's Competition and Consumer Commission and New Zealand's Commerce Commission - to investigate and take action over roaming prices, including potential price caps.
About one million Australians visit New Zealand each year on holiday or business. Currently, they pay up to $A20 ($NZ24.60) per MB of data, about $A0.75 for a text message, between $A2 and $A8.50 per minute for a phone call, and up to $A40 just to send a photo back home via their mobile.
That often results in a "very rude shock" when they return home and open their phone bill, Ms Gillard says.
The new arrangement will require annual reporting and greater transparency from telcos about their roaming costs.
"Ultimately, if we don't see reductions in these kinds of charges, we will empower our competition regulators to act and to intervene in the market to get people a better deal," Ms Gillard said.
The two leaders said while charges had come down significantly over the past two years in both countries, due to pressure from their governments, there was still room for prices to fall further.
Mr Key earlier said he was hopeful trans-Tasman prices could one day be as low as domestic mobile charges.
The deal could pave the way to lowering roaming costs with other countries, such as the United States and European Union.