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Transport and Communications Legislation Amendment Bill 1990



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House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Transport and Communications

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Purpose

This is an omnibus Bill that will make a number of largely non-contentious amendments to legislation administered by the Transport and Communications portfolio. The major amendments relate to the advertisement of medicines; the protection of the environment by the Civil Aviation Authority and the Federal Airports Corporation; motor vehicle standards compliance plates and procedures for testing vehicles; the abuse of alcohol and other drugs by certain seafarers; power of the Minister to give directions to the Australian Telecommunications Authority (AUSTEL); the waiver by AUSTEL of application fees; and the exemption of AUSTEL from Commonwealth, State and Territory taxes.

Background

As there is no central theme to the Bill the background to each amendment will be explained below.

Main Provisions

Amendments to the Broadcasting Act 1942

Sub-section 100(6) of the Act provides that a licensee is not to broadcast an advertisement relating to a medicine unless its text has been approved by the Secretary to the Department of Community Services and Health (the Secretary), or by the Minister where there has been an appeal from a decision of the Secretary. Sub-section 100(7) of the Act provides that the Secretary may delegate the power to approve advertisements relating to medicines to a medical officer of a State.

On 9 March 1987, the then Public Service Board established a Review of Drug Evaluation Procedures. The Review arose from concerns about the reliability of certain data used to help gain market approval for a number of different brands of prescription drugs. The terms of reference of the Review included that the Review examine and report on the management of drug evaluation and related functions of the then Department of Health. In relation to the advertising and promotion of medicines, the Review stated that it doubted whether the cost to the government, or the protection afforded indirectly to patients by Departmental scrutiny of advertising material warranted the continuation of that process. The Review recommended that if the industry, through the Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and the Pharmaceutical Association of Australia were able to produce a draft advertising code which was acceptable to the government and monitor adherence to it through a council that included representatives of the medical profession and consumers, that a two year-year trial period of self-regulation should take place 1.

Clause 9 will allow the Secretary to the Department of Community Services and Health to delegate the power to approve the text of advertisements relating to medicine to: a medical officer of a State; the Proprietary Medicines Association of Australia; or any other body carrying out or associated with research into medicines, or formed to represent the interests of manufacturers or distributors of medicines.

Amendments to the Civil Aviation Act 1988

In September 1985, the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise, tabled a report titled Aircraft Operations and the Australian Community. The terms of reference of the Committee to report on: the impact of aircraft noise on the health and welfare of persons, institutions and communities; the effectiveness of administrative procedures and regulations designed to lessen noise; the effects of aircraft operations, other than noise, on property; and the effect of aircraft emissions on people and property.

The recommendations of the Committee included that:

*the Commonwealth Department of Health in consultation with State and local governments undertake a study to determine the effects of aircraft noise on mortality and physical and mental health;

*the Department of Communications undertake a survey into the extent of interference to television reception caused by aircraft flyover and investigate measures to alleviate the problem;

*compensation be paid to property owners who, because of the acquisition of property for a new airport, or the redevelopment of an existing airport, suffer a reduction in value of their land not acquired for those purposes, provided that valuations are based on existing land uses;

*the Commonwealth Government in consultation with State and local governments introduce a scheme for the acquisition of residences within high noise zones surrounding military and civil airports; and

*legislation establishing the Federal Airports Corporation specify consideration of environmental matters in the functioning of the Corporation 2.

In September 1990, the Government tabled its response to the report of the Committee. In relation to the recommendations of the Committee listed above, the Governments responses were:

*that the Department of Community Services and Health points out that overseas studies have to date not produced any conclusive findings on the health effects of noise. The costs of such a study would be substantial and that on available evidence the issue of aircraft noise and health could not be considered a high public health priority;

*that the Department of Transport and Communications has advised that there is no practical remedy for the problem of picture flutter caused by aircraft to VHF channels. This appears to be accepted by the public and no further action is proposed;

*that the Government has decided not to take up the Committees recommendation in relation to compensation for reduction in land value because of the acquisition of land for a new airport, because of the complexities of calculating the extent of compensation, the uncertain but possibly extensive cost across the whole range of infrastructure provision, and the possibility of windfall gains to those being compensated;

*that the Government proposes developing legislation to give the Federal Airports Corporation the flexibility to acquire properties for noise abatement reasons and that such legislation, which would not entitle house holders to demand purchase within a specific time frame, would be based on acquisition at current market values, and would be limited by the funds available to the Federal Airports Corporation and the Department of Defence; and

*that the Government will amend legislation of the Federal Airports Corporation and the Civil Aviation Authority to require them to take account of the environmental effects of aircraft operations 3.

It will be a function of the Civil Aviation Authority to protect the environment from the effects of the operation and use of aircraft, other than State aircraft (clause 13).

Clause 14 provides that the Civil Aviation Authority is to perform its functions, other than its regulatory functions, in a way that ensures, as far as is practicable, that the environment is protected from the effects of the operation and use of aircraft, other than State aircraft.

Clause 17 provides that the Civil Aviation Authority will not be entitled to be reimbursed by the Commonwealth where it has suffered a financial detriment because of complying with a Ministerial directive to protect the environment (note: in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill it is stated that the cost of the Civil Aviation Authority's environmental protection activities will be borne by the aviation industry).

Amendments to the Federal Airports Corporation Act 1986

Clause 21 provides that the Federal Airports Corporation is to perform its functions in a way that ensures, as far as is practicable, that the environment is protected from the effects of the operation and use of aircraft, other than state aircraft, operating to or from Federal airports.

It will be a function of the Federal Airports Corporation to protect the environment from the effects of the operation and use of aircraft, other than state aircraft, operating to or from Federal airports (clause 22).

The Federal Airports Corporation will not be entitled to be reimbursed by the Commonwealth where it has suffered a financial detriment because of complying with a Government policy directive, or a Ministerial directive to protect the environment (note:in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill

it is stated that the cost of the Federal Airports Corporations environment protection activities will be borne by the aviation industry) (clause 24).

Amendments to the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989

The object of the Act is to provide uniform vehicle standards for vehicles when they are first used. The Act gives the Minister, subject to disallowance by Parliament, power to set vehicle standards for vehicles or vehicle components. In addition, the Minister has the power, in accordance with the regulations, to make arrangements for the testing of vehicles and components; the inspection of manufacturing and testing facilities; and the examination of documents relating to the manufacture or testing of vehicles or vehicle components. The regulations provide for arrangements under which plates are placed on vehicles to indicate that they comply with national standards. A person may import a non-standard vehicle, vehicle component, or vehicle that does not have a compliance plate with Ministerial approval and on conditions that ensure that the vehicle will not breach the standards before use. The Act also established a number of offences, including that it is an offence for a person to knowingly or recklessly supply to the market a new vehicle that is non-standard or does not have a compliance plate. The maximum penalty for such a breach is a fine of $12 000. However, no offence will have been committed where the Minister's permission has been obtained or the vehicle has been supplied in accordance with prescribed circumstances. In addition, it is an offence for a person to knowingly or recklessly import a vehicle that is non-standard or does not have a compliance plate. The maximum penalty for such a breach is a fine of $12 000.

The effect of clause 27 will be to allow the Minister, in accordance with the regulations, to make arrangements for the testing and inspection of material, machinery, appliances, articles or facilities used in the manufacture of road vehicles or vehicle components.

A new section 10 will be substituted in the Act by clause 28. Proposed section 10 provides that the regulations will provide for arrangements under which plates will be placed on vehicles to indicate that they comply with national standards, or that approval has been given for plates to be placed on the vehicles. In addition, proposed section 10 will allow the Minister to authorise plates to be placed on a vehicle which does not comply with the national standards where satisfied that the non-compliance is minor or inconsequential.

Clause 30 provides for review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of decisions made by the Minister under clause 28 (see above).

Amendments to the Navigation Act 1912

Clause 33 will make it an offence for a master or seaman, while on board a ship, to be under the influence of alcohol or any other drug to such an extent that their ability to perform their duties is impaired. The maximum penalty which may be imposed for a breach of this provision will be a term of imprisonment of 12 months. An offence will also have been committed where impairment from alcohol or drugs results in loss or damage to the ship or another ship, or death or injury to another person. The maximum penalty for a breach of this provision will be a term of imprisonment of 2 years.

In the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill, the stated reason given for the proposed amendment is to discourage the abuse of alcohol and other drugs by seafarers.

Amendments to the Telecommunications Act 1989

Section 111 of the Act gives the Minister power to give AUSTEL directions about the way it performs its functions, or exercises its powers, in relation to the issuing of permits for customer equipment (i.e equipment that is, or is intended to be, connected to a telecommunications network by a carrier) or of licences for the performance of cabling work. Clause 39 will increase the power of the Minister to give directions under section 111 of the Act by allowing the Minister to direct AUSTEL to vary or cancel permits for customer equipment and licences for the performance of cabling work.

Clause 40 will make it an offence for a person to not comply with a notice from AUSTEL requiring them to disconnect, within 7 days of receipt of the notice or such other period as is specified in the notice, customer equipment connected to a telecommunications network which that person has under their control and for which they do not have a permit. The maximum penalty which may be imposed for a breach of this provision will be a fine of $12 000.

The Telecommunications (Application Fees) Act 1989 provides that a prescribed fee is payable by a person who makes an application to AUSTEL for: variation of a licence to provide a value added service or a private network service; for registration of a value added service or private network service; for registration of a value added service or private network service; a permit for the connection or variation of customer equipment; accreditation as a testing house; and a cabling licence or variation of a cabling licence. Clause 43 provides that AUSTEL may waive, wholly or partly, fees payable in respect of the applications listed above.

Clause 44 provides that AUSTEL is to be exempt from Commonwealth, State and Territory taxes, other than prescribed taxation laws.

References

1. Public Service Board, Review of Drug Evaluation Procedures, June 1987, p. 113.

2. House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise, Aircraft Operations and the Australian Community, September 1985, pp. ix-xii.

3. Department of Transport and Communications, Government Response to the Report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise, September 1990, pp. 2-15.

Bills Digest Service 10 November 1990

Parliamentary Research Service

For further information, if required, contact the Economics and Commerce Group on 06 2772460.

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

Commonwealth of Australia 1990

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Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1990.