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Thursday, 28 October 2010
Page: 2021

Mr STEPHEN JONES (11:38 AM) —I support the Radiocommunications Amendment Bill 2010, which will amend the Radio Communications Act 1992. It will provide greater flexibility to the regulator and more effectively manage the allocation and reallocation of spectrum licences and importantly provide greater certainty for the industry, particularly those companies that hold mobile telecommunications carrier licences. As the member for Cowper has correctly identified, this bill is part of our broader plan to ensure that we have modern and effective telecommunications infrastructure in this country. It is a part of our plan to ensure that we have the infrastructure that will drive productivity, encourage investment, create jobs and ensure that our country is set up to prosper from the next wave of technological change and the challenges in our region and around the globe in the future.

We are committed to ensuring that we have modern telecommunications infrastructure and an efficient allocation of spectrum in this country because we understand that modern telecommunications infrastructure and the effective management of spectrum not only drive investment and productivity but are the backbone around which community building occurs, by bringing communications into our homes and into our schools and making the world a smaller place. It shows that we have a plan for telecommunications and communications in this country, in stark contrast to those opposite.

The member for Cowper made a number of criticisms of the steps that we have taken to modernise telecommunications infrastructure in this country after only three years of government, in stark contrast to the 19 failed broadband plans of the former government, which did nothing to deliver enhanced or improved telecommunications facilities to constituents in the member for Cowper’s electorate or to the citizens in my electorate. We have a plan for the industry. We have a plan for more than just the privatisation of a company.

This bill will provide certainty in the allocation of spectrum and it will do that by the adoption of five critical principles. It will ensure the allocation of spectrum to the highest value use or uses. It will enable and encourage spectrum to move to its highest value of use or uses. It will ensure that the management authority will use the least cost and least restrictive approach to achieving its policy objectives. It will ensure, to the extent possible, that there will be both certainty and flexibility. Finally, it will balance the cost of interference and the benefits of greater spectrum utilisation. The bill proposes to amend the Radio Communications Act to give the regulator more flexibility and to remove the two-year time limit before which ACMA can initiate discussion on the reissue or renewal of the 15-year spectrum licences. This provides more certainty to those holders of current licences, which is critical in ensuring that we have continuity of investment and continuity of employment within those companies.

When the telecommunications industry in this country began to be deregulated in 1991, and three mobile carriage licences were issued and spectrum allocated to the holders of those mobile carriage licences, we could not have imagined the development in technologies that would ensue. The original brick size mobile phones that were carried around in briefcases have been replaced by minute handsets. When SMS services were originally included as a package for modern mobile phones, people did not know what they were to be used for, but now they are the mainstay of telecommunications and mobile telecommunications.

What we know from this is that the telecommunications industry is rapidly changing and that we cannot predict the way that it will change into the future, but we have to put in place the infrastructure to ensure that we are well placed to manage those changes and to get the growth in productivity and employment that will be available as technology changes into the future. This bill is a part of our plan. It will provide greater flexibility to the regulator and certainty to the industries and companies in the sector. I commend the bill to the House.