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Thursday, 14 February 2019
Page: 464

Mr TAYLOR (HumeMinister for Energy) (12:13): I present a revised explanatory memorandum to this bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 creates a new tower access regime for towers owned or operated by NBN corporations such as NBN Co Limited, and would also allow the Minister for Communications and the Arts to specify certain temporary telecommunications towers as low-impact facilities in certain circumstances. Following amendment in the Senate, the bill also contains minor technical amendments to transmitter licence refund arrangements and broadcasting licensee support payments, as agreed in the media reform package of 2018.

Schedule 1 of the bill will amend the National Broadband Network Companies Act 2011 to permit NBN corporations to provide emergency service organisations, like police, fire or ambulance services, with access to towers and associated sites and facilities.

Currently, NBN Co cannot provide access to its towers to these organisations because of statutory line of business restrictions. These line of business restrictions limit it to supplying eligible services—such as access to towers—to persons who are carriers or service providers. Emergency service organisations are usually not engaged in the telecommunications business, so are not carriers or service providers. However, they do access towers owned by carriers to deploy equipment that allows them to operate more efficiently, and there is a clear public interest in them being able to access NBN Co's towers.

Schedule 1 to the bill therefore amends the line of business restrictions. The restrictions are only suspended when NBN Co supplies access to towers and associated sites, and only when it supplies this access to eligible persons. Eligible persons are defined to include police, fire and ambulance services, and state or territory emergency services.

NBN Co will not have to provide access if this is not technically feasible or if it does not have sufficient capacity on a tower for its own reasonable requirements or existing contractual requirements. It also will not have to supply access if it is reasonable for an eligible person to obtain access from another tower in the vicinity. This latter clause reflects the fact that other organisations provide tower access and therefore NBN Co should meet competitive neutrality requirements.

NBN Co will be required to publish a standard offer for tower access and must provide the access on a non-discriminatory basis. These obligations are consistent with its general obligations when it supplies services to telecommunications companies.

Schedule 2 to the bill will amend schedule 3 to the Telecommunications Act 1997 to allow the more efficient installation of temporary telecommunications towers when used during emergencies, maintenance, peak holiday periods, and major sporting, cultural or other events.

Schedule 3 to the Telecommunications Act 1997 sets out telecommunications carrier powers and immunities, which allow some types of facilities, such as low-impact of facilities, to be installed and upgraded in a nationally uniform way without the delays imposed by lengthy development approval processes.

The amendments in schedule 2 to the bill would allow the Minister for Communications and the Arts to specify temporary towers as low-impact facilities in certain circumstances. These changes will allow telecommunications carriers to quickly provide services to the community, businesses and emergency services organisations. The changes were outlined in a June 2017 public consultation paper, titled 'Consultation on possible amendments to telecommunications carrier powers and immunities'.

Except during an emergency and natural disaster, there will be strict height restrictions imposed on temporary towers. The changes also include conditions to ensure that a temporary tower is removed within a set time frame and that carriers restore the land.

Schedule 3 of the bill was inserted via amendment in the Senate. The schedule contains minor technical amendments to transmitter licence refund arrangements and broadcasting licensee support payments. The changes are to:

amend a provision in the Radiocommunications Taxes Collection Act 1983 so that it operates as intended, such that pro-rata refunds would only apply to taxes imposed on transmitter licences paid in the financial year ending on 30 June 2017;

to make amendments to the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Act 2017 to omit Northern Rivers Television Pty Ltd from the list of specified companies eligible for a transitional support payment, and replace it with Network Investments Pty Ltd; and

modify the operation of the transitional support payments provisions to reflect that the 'designated day' will now be a day in a later financial year.

I commend the bill to the House.

Leave granted for the second reading debate to continue immediately.