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Thursday, 13 May 2010
Page: 2835


Senator LUDWIG (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) (1:55 PM) —I table a revised explanatory memorandum relating to the bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

The Do Not Call Register Act 2006 (the Act) was introduced in May 2006 to enable individuals to opt out of receiving unsolicited telemarketing calls by listing their fixed or mobile telephone numbers on the Do Not Call Register (the Register ). Only numbers used primarily for private or domestic purposes can currently be registered. The Register formally commenced on 31 May 2007 at which time registration lasted for 3 years. One month after the Register commenced operation, over 1 million numbers had been registered.

The Government recognises that telemarketing and fax marketing are legitimate marketing methods, but considers that this must be weighed against the effects on called parties. For agencies of Government, for instance, the receipt of telemarketing calls tends to be limited value, causing inefficiencies and loss of productivity.

For emergency services organisations —such as ambulance services, fire and law enforcement authorities—such calls can be an operational impediment. Emergency service operators have advised the Government that telemarketers are bypassing emergency numbers, such as ‘000’, and directly contacting emergency service operators through the use of predictive dialling equipment. Responding to these calls delays the response to genuine emergency calls.

Neither Government agencies nor emergency services organisation can currently put their numbers on the Register.

In response to these concerns, this bill will expand the class of numbers that can be registered to include the telephone numbers of government agencies and emergency services organisations.

The Government has also heeded complaints that the Act does not offer protection from the receipt of unsolicited commercial faxes. Recipients of marketing faxes are affected through the direct costs of additional consumables such as ink and paper; from lost time and from the tying-up of fax equipment and other communications services such as payment systems.

The Bill therefore introduces regulation of unsolicited fax marketing by prohibiting the sending of a marketing fax to a number on the Register. The Bill also makes consequential amendments to the Telecommunications Act 1997 to allow the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to make codes and standards for the fax marketing industry.

Following introduction in the House of Representatives in November 2009, the Bill was referred for consideration by a Senate Committee. The Committee took evidence that the extension of the Register to business numbers would adversely affect business-to-business communication and impose unreasonable compliance costs.

Having regard to these concerns business numbers — other than business fax numbers—will not, at this time, be allowed on the Register.

A recent review of the Do Not Call Register scheme undertaken by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy identified that individual respondents strongly supported the extension of the registration period which is currently 3 years.

This Bill also provides for the extension of the registration period. This change will be effected by giving the Minister the power under the Act to determine the registration period in an instrument. Initially, the registration period will be set at 5 years. This will apply to numbers registered after the commencement of the Bill as well as those numbers currently on the Register. In the event that this Bill does not commence before 31 May 2010 — the day on which the initial 3 year registration period starts to expire — any numbers that fall from the Register prior to commencement will be re-instated on the Register.

Expected benefits

The Bill will benefit those organisations, other than businesses, that are detrimentally affected by telemarketing calls by prohibiting unsolicited marketing calls or faxes. This will be of particular benefit to governments and emergency service organisations.

The Bill may also assist the telemarketing and fax marketing industries in targeting their campaigns to those recipients who are more likely to respond positively to their representations.

Compliance Costs

There are expected to be some compliance costs for fax marketers who have not previously been required to use the Register. However, these compliance costs are expected to be in line with the costs that telemarketers incurred with the introduction of the original Do Not Call Register and are not expected to be large. For example, the current cost to check 20 000 numbers against the Register is $78 per year. In 2008, an independent study conducted by the call centre industry found that 90 per cent of call centres surveyed experienced no change in gross revenues following the introduction of the original Register, and none experienced decreased gross revenues.

Funding

The Government will provide funding of $4.7 million over four years to make the necessary changes to the scheme. Of this amount, approximately $3.5 million over four years will be recovered from the telemarketing and fax marketing industries through fees paid to access the Register to cover its operational costs. The remaining $1.2 million will come from a re-allocation of resources within the broadband, communications and the digital economy portfolio.

Conclusion

This Bill will put in place a range of measures that will enhance the effectiveness of the Do Not Call Register and provide Australians with greater protection from unwanted and unsolicited telemarketing and fax marketing.