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Wednesday, 16 March 2005
Page: 40


Senator COONAN (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (12:02 PM) —The purpose is to amend the bill to require at least one member to have a background in consumer advocacy and representation. In line with the Senate committee’s own recommendations, appointments to ACMA will ultimately be based on merit. The amendment would require the appointment of a member with a specific background, regardless of the overall merit and balance of candidates and the mix of their talents and skills. Members of the ACMA will be appointed from diverse backgrounds to provide an appropriate spread of expertise across the authority’s regulatory responsibilities. Experience in consumer issues would be one aspect, no doubt, to be considered in this process.

Over the coming months, the government will be looking for the best people to be appointed to the authority and has therefore appointed an executive search agency to assist in identifying suitable candidates for the position of chair and other members. The government takes very seriously these appointments. It is a most important regulator and, clearly, when you are merging the two distinct areas of telecommunications and broadcasting, you do need a mix of skills and, obviously, the interests of consumers are one of the very important aspects to be taken into account in the process. While I am on my feet I will say, in response to Senator Conroy’s earlier question, that the Remuneration Tribunal will be setting the terms, salaries and conditions of the chair, but we do not yet have an outcome from that.