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Tuesday, 10 May 2011
Page: 2155

Senator BIRMINGHAM ( South Australia ) ( 17:59 ):  In relation to the issue of emergency service networks and their access to spectrum, the coalition have been particularly aware of this issue and concerned for some time now. We are aware that people raised issues in relation to this legislation. We believe that there is some merit in ensuring that particular considera¬≠tion be given to this issue, and that is why we moved to establish terms of reference on it for the Senate Environment and Communica¬≠tions References Committee, which is undertaking an inquiry into the capacity of communication networks and emergency warning systems to deal with emergencies and natural disasters. They are broad terms of reference that have the capacity to deal with a range of potential issues, but it is important to note that the terms of reference also include a capacity and requirement for the committee to look at new and emerging technologies, including digital spectrum, that could improve preparation for responses to and recovery from an emergency or natural disaster.

The coalition sees this as an important issue. We are encouraged that the chamber—including, indeed, Senator Ludlam—supported us in ensuring that these terms of reference were passed through to the committee. We do think that it is critical that the concerns of those state and territory agencies as well as the concerns raised by many other groups about spectrum access for emergency services be heard and properly considered. We trust that the government, as part of their responsibility, will do that, and this chamber is already doing that through the Senate Environment and Communica¬≠tions References Committee. We think that that is an appropriate forum in which to air all of those issues properly and to ensure that, if the case for particular spectrum to be allocated is valid, the committee will make recommendations to the government for that spectrum to be allocated. We would hope that the government would look favourably upon such recommendations.