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Thursday, 22 September 1983
Page: 1147


Mr DUFFY (Minister for Communications)(11.01) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill and the associated Bills which I will introduce shortly will replace the Radiocommunications Licence Fees Act 1982. That Act will be repealed under the provisions of the Radiocommunications (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill 1982. Fees for radiocommunications services are presently levied under the Radiocommunications Licence Fees Act. It was necessary for these fees to be levied as taxes under that Act in order to place the fees beyond possible legal challenge. This principle also enables the Government to apply a royalty concept to radiocommunication licence fees. Consequently the financial impact of this Bill and the related tax measures will in themselves be no different from the current situation. A royalty is appropriate because the radio frequency spectrum is a scarce natural resource which is in steadily increasing demand. The cost of using this resource in some cases bears little relation to the value of it to the licencee. Application of the royalty concept can be used as a pricing mechanism to spread the demand for valuable portions of the spectrum and thus increase the overall efficiency of use of the spectrum.

In replacing the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905, the Radiocommunications Bill will provide for the grant of frequency reservation certificates, receiver licences, temporary permits, test permits and transmitter licences. The Constitution requires that laws imposing taxation deal solely with the imposition of taxation and only with one subject of taxation. It is therefore necessary that separate Bills authorise the various charges for services provided for by the Radiocommunications Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the collection of those charges. The Bill establishes clearly that all users of the spectrum, including statutory corporations of the Commonwealth or Territories, will be liable for those charges. Regulations may be made under this Bill to specify the manner of payment as well as the remission or refund of tax in certain circumstances.

The Government has given consideration to incorporating radiocommunications licence fees in schedules to the minor Acts rather than as regulations as is the current situation. However the Government considers that it is appropriate for fees to continue to be imposed by regulation because new radiocommunications services are appearing constantly and provision has to be made promptly to authorise the issue of licences and the charging of licence fees for them. To amend the relevant act to cater for this situation would result in needless impositions on the time of the Parliament. Should Parliament have reservations about taxes set by regulation, I remind the House that those regulations would be subject to disallowance in the usual manner.

Debate (on motion by Mr Shipton) adjourned.