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Wednesday, 25 November 1998
Page: 691


Mr STEPHEN SMITH (10:23 AM) —Mr Deputy Speaker Nehl, I do not think I have had the opportunity of congratulating you since your re-election to your high office, and I do so. Given the nature of the Telecommunications Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1998 that is before me, I regret to advise that this is probably going to be the most substantive part of my speech.

The Telecommunications Act 1997 currently imposes a requirement for telecommunications carriers to notify the Commonwealth where a proposed activity may affect a matter of Commonwealth environmental significance. At the time of drafting the provision, it was envisaged that this requirement in the Telecommunications Act would be superseded by a similar provision in the proposed Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Bill 1998. For this reason, the Telecommunications Act 1997, which came into effect on 1 July 1997, contained a sunset provision of 1 January 1999. Due to legislative and other delays in the environmental reform program of the government, it is proposed to extend the sunset provision from 1 January 1999 to 1 January 2001, by which time it is hoped and expected that the relevant environmental legislation would have progressed through the parliament.

Whatever criticisms may be made in respect of delay or otherwise of the environmental legislation, so far as the substantive portion of this amendment is concerned in relation to telecommunications, it is a sensible extension of the sunset clause which ensures that telecommunications carriers fulfil their obligations to environmental standards of the Commonwealth. So the opposition has no difficulty with this bill; it supports it. Given its non-contentious nature, I have also taken the opportunity of advising the next speaker that I thought my speech would last about three minutes; I think it has lasted about two. We support the bill.