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Tuesday, 18 June 1996
Page: 2175

(Question No. 154)

Mr Andren asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications and the Arts, upon notice, on 7 May 1996:

(1) Will the Government legislate to enable local government to have the power of consent over the erection of equipment by telecommunications carriers.

(2) Is it a fact that local governments are best able to determine the environmental suitability of telecommunications facilities erected within their boundaries.

Mr Warwick Smith —The Minister for Communications and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1) The Telecommunications (Exempt Activities) Regulations made under the Telecommunications Act 1991 allow carriers to engage in specified activities without being subject to certain State and Territory laws. These laws include environmental, heritage, town planning, powers and functions of a local government body, use of land, tenancy and the supply of fuel and power. The carriers must comply with the Telecommunications National Code when undertaking activities exempt from certain State and Territory laws.

The current regime does not provide for local government to give consent in the normal sense of planning authorisations. However, it does require consultation between the carrier and the local government, and other relevant authorities.

The Government intends to introduce a new Code which will require carriers to undertake stricter notification and consultation procedures to enable meaningful consultation with local government authorities about proposals to erect telecommunications facilities.

This framework, operating in lieu of normal State and Territory planning laws, will continue until replaced by a scheme of proper planning processes, preferably from 1 July 1997, which will be developed in consultation with States, Territories and Local Government.

(2) The Government is mindful of the important role local government can play in assessing any proposal relating to the erection of telecommunications facilities and therefore it is intended to continue and strengthen the requirements relating to consultation with local government in relation to proposals to erect facilities within their boundaries. As noted above, the Government will also, in consultation with States, Territories and Local Government be considering what scheme should replace the current scheme in the longer term.