Bills Digest No. 64  1998-99 Telecommunications Amendment Bill (No.2) 1998


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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 status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

CONTENTS

Passage History
Purpose
Background
Main Provisions
Endnotes
Contact Officer and Copyright Details

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 relevant 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 temporary 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. Telecommunications Act 1997, schedule 3 clauses 8,9 and 12 - 14.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Lee Jones
3 December 1998
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This paper has been prepared for general distribution to Senators and Members of the Australian Parliament. While great care is taken to ensure that the paper is accurate and balanced, the paper is written using information publicly available at the time of production. The views expressed are those of the author and should not be attributed to the Information and Research Services (IRS). Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion. Readers are reminded that the paper is not an official parliamentary or Australian government document.

IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members
and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1328-8091
© Commonwealth of Australia 1998

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1998.

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