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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 3778

Senator McGRATH ( Queensland Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister ) ( 15:39 ): I table the 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 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 to specify certain temporary telecommunications towers as low-impact facilities in certain circumstances.

Schedule 1 to 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 and other events.

Schedule 3 to the Telecommunications Act 1997 sets out telecommunications carrier powers and immunities, which allows 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 approvals processes.

The amendments in Schedule 2 to the Bill will allow the Minister for Communications 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, Possible amendments to telecommunications carrier powers and immunities - Consultation Paper.

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 timeframe and that carriers restore the land.

Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of this bill be adjourned to the first sitting day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.