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Thursday, 14 February 2019
Page: 471

Mr TAYLOR (HumeMinister for Energy) (12:43): I would like to thank the members of the House of Representatives who have contributed to this debate on the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment Bill 2018. The bill 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 temporary telecommunications towers as low-impact facilities in certain circumstances. Schedule 1 of the bill will amend the NBN Companies Act 2011 to permit NBN corporations to provide emergency service organisations like police, fire and ambulance with access to towers and associated sites and facilities.

The bill requires NBN Co to meet competitive neutrality obligations. 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 obligations. 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 more efficient installation of temporary communications towers when used during emergencies, maintenance, high-demand holiday periods and major sporting, cultural and other events. Schedule 3 to the bill sets out telecommunications carriers' powers and immunities, which allow some types of facilities, such as low-impact 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 will allow the minister to specify temporary towers as low-impact facilities in certain circumstances, and those changes will allow carriers to quickly provide services to the community, businesses and those emergency service organisations. The proposed changes were outlined in a June 2017 public consultation paper which was titled 'Possible amendments to telecommunications carrier powers and immunity: consultation paper'.

As the chamber may recall, this bill was referred to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for consideration. The committee published its report on 10 September last year and focused on schedule 2 of the bill. I want to thank the committee for its hard work and considered report. It recommended that the bill be passed and also made recommendations about strengthening protections in schedule 2 to the bill to ensure that carriers would not be able to relocate temporary facilities as a means of avoiding the time limitations in the bill and to ensure that the protections will apply to heritage areas. I think the committee's additional recommendations were very sensible, although I note that they can largely be dealt with through additional clarification of the safeguards present in the current law and the bill itself. As such, the Minister for Communications and the Arts tabled a replacement explanatory memorandum for the bill in the Senate which addressed these recommendations and also addressed concerns raised in submissions made by stakeholders, including the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, the Communications Alliance and the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association.

Members will be aware that schedule 3 to the bill was inserted by the Senate during its debate on the bill. The schedule contains a measure that the government proposed in the Communications Legislation Amendment (Deregulation and Other Measures) Bill 2018, which was supported by those opposite. The schedule contains minor technical amendments to transmitter licence refund arrangements and broadcasting licensee support payments, as agreed in the media reform package of 2018. The government supported the amendment to the bill in the Senate because it will allow, amongst other things, payments to be made to Network Investments Pty Ltd as part of the transitional support payments under the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Act 2017. I call on all members to support the bill.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.