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Thursday, 28 October 2010
Page: 2048


Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (1:36 PM) —in reply—I am pleased to have the opportunity to sum up the debate on the Radiocommunications Amendment Bill 2010 as the Minister representing the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. I thank the honourable members who have contributed to the debate. This bill proposes important reforms to the radio frequency spectrum regulatory framework to benefit consumers and industry. This bill is not related to the rollout of the National Broadband Network or the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill. Those opposite who have suggested that it is related are either attempting to mislead or have not read the bill. The Radiocommunications Amendment Bill is solely focused on improving spectrum efficiency and management.

The amendments in the bill have two main themes—to improve the spectrum regulatory framework and to facilitate spectrum licence renewal processes. The bill will improve the spectrum regulatory framework. Fifteen-year spectrum licences were first issued in the late 1990s and will start to expire from 2013. Currently these licences are used to provide communication services to millions of Australians spread across the continent. The Australian Communications and Media Authority is restricted by the current provisions of the Radiocommunications Act 1992 to starting the licence reissue process not more than two years before licence expiry. Industry has consistently called for greater investment certainty in relation to the renewal of spectrum licences.

This bill will give ACMA the freedom it needs to commence reissue processes earlier and it will provide improved certainty for industry. This recognises the significant investment required by licensees in spectrum and communication networks. Allowing different licence types to coexist in the same spectrum will potentially bring significant improvements in spectrum efficiency. Coexistence will encourage the provision of more communication services and devices in the future, giving consumers greater choice. Safeguards in the bill will mean ACMA must be satisfied that coexistence will be in the public interest and there will be no unacceptable levels of interference to other services before it authorises coexistence in a particular spectrum band.

The bill will also facilitate spectrum licence renewal processes. It will allow the streamlining of ministerial determinations and directions for licence reissue, thus minimising the potential for significant delays. The proposals in the bill to streamline ministerial determinations and directions are consistent with the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 and have been approved by the Attorney-General. Further, the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills accepted the proposed approach to streamline ministerial determinations and directions as satisfactory. This is set out in the committee’s comments on the lapsed Radiocommunications Amendment Bill 2010, previously introduced into the House of Representatives on 16 June this year.

The objections of those opposite to this particular amendment are yet another attempt to delay and obstruct the important work of the government in reforming the telecommunications sector. We know this sector suffered 12 years of inaction and neglect under the Howard government. The coalition’s attempts to delay and obstruct the reissuing of licences would deny the industry the certainty that it needs.

This bill is both necessary and timely. I call on all members of the House to support the measures in the bill.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.