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Telecommunications Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1998



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Bills Digest No. 64  1998-99

 

Telecommunications Amendment Bill (No.2) 1998

Warning:

This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal st atus. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

Contents

 

 

Passage History

Telecommunications Amendment Bill (No.2) 1998

Date Introduced:  12 November 1998

House:  House of Representatives

Portfolio:  Communications, Information Technology and the Arts

Commencement:  On Royal Assent

Purpose

To amend the Telecommunications Act 1997 to extend, until 1 January 2001, the requirement that telecommunications carriers notify the Commonwealth where an activity may affect a matter of Commonwealth environmental interest.

Background

Telecommunications carriers may construct or install telecommunications facilities where the carrier has the agreement of the re levant landowners and the relevant State, Territory or local authority.  Telecommunications carriers can construct telecommunications facilities in the absence of agreement with the landowner and/or the State/Territory or local authority in the following circumstances:

• The carrier is authorised to do so by a facility installation permit (issued by the Australian Communications Authority after the carrier has satisfied a number of criteria)

• The facility is a low-impact facility

• The facility is a tempor ary defence facility

• The installation is for the purpose of connecting a subscriber.(1)

Where a carrier constructs a telecommunications facility in one of these four circumstances, it is obliged to comply with the Telecommunications Act 1997 .  The Act obliges the carrier to do as little damage as possible, to restore the land, to comply with industry standards and any international agreements and to comply with any conditions specified in the regulations.(2)

Where a carrier has the agreement of the landowner and relevant authorities, i.e. it is not relying on one of the four circumstances above, it will of course have to comply with any conditions imposed by the relevant authorities.  Additionally where such a construction/installation is proposed to take place before 1 January 1999 the carrier must notify Secretary of the Department of Environment and Heritage (Secretary) if:

• The installation is likely to be inconsistent with Australia’s obligations under an international agreement

• The installation could threaten a species of flora or fauna or damage a habitat of an endangered ecological community

• The installation is to be carried out on a World Heritage property or a place Australia is required to protect under an international agreement.

Where that notification is required, the ACA (following a recommendation by the Secretary) may issue a direction to the carrier to do or refrain from doing a specified act in relation to the carrying out of the installation.  These requirements are contained in clause 55 of Schedule 3 to the Telecommunications Act 1997 .

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts’ Second Reading Speech to this Bill states that clause 55 is intended to ‘ensure that the Commonwealth has the ability to intervene in matters of national environmental significance’.

As mentioned above, the notification requirement ceases on 1 January 1999.  The reason for that is that it was intended that by that date a similar requirement would be contained in new legislation, upon the enactment of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Bill 1998.  That Bill has still not been enacted.

As a consequence it is necessary to continue to require notification and to continue to empower the ACA to issue directions under the Telecommunications Act 1997 .  That requirement and that power will be continued until 1 January 2001.

Main Provisions

The Bill amends clause 55 of Schedule 3 to the Telecommunication Act 1997 by changing the reference to ‘1999’ to ‘2001’.

Endnotes

1. Telecommunications Act 1997, schedule 3 clause 6.

2. T elecommunications Act 1997, schedule 3 clauses 8,9 and 12 - 14.

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