Bills Digest 88 1996-97 Australian Communications Authority Bill 1996

Numerical Index | Alphabetical Index

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.


Passage History

Australian Communications Authority Bill 1996

Date Introduced: 5 December 1996
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Communication and the Arts
Commencement: The Act commences on 1 July 1997.


This bill is a part of a package of bills, the purpose of which is to implement a new regulatory framework for the telecommunications industry.Most significantly this bill establishes the Australian Communications Authority (ACA).The ACA will take over the non-competition functions of AUSTEL and the functions of the Spectrum Management Authority.


Refer to the Background contained in the Digest of the Telecommunications Bill 1996.

Main Provisions

Part 1 - Introduction

This Part contains the commencement and interpretation provisions.

Part 2 - Functions and Powers of the ACA

The ACA has 3 types of functions:

  • telecommunications functions (Clause 6) including:

a)regulating telecommunication in accordance with the Telecommunications Act 1996

b)reporting to and advising the Minister in relation to the telecommunications industry and matters affecting consumers of carriage services

c)managing Australia's input into the setting of international standards for telecommunications

d)monitoring and reporting to the Minister in relation to licensing of carriers

e)making information about matters relating to the telecommunications industry publicly available.

  • spectrum management functions (Clause 7) including:

a)managing the radiofrequency spectrum in accordance with the Radiocommunications Act 1992

b)reporting to and advising the Minister in relation to the radiocommunications community

c)managing Australia's input into the setting of international standards for radiocommunications

d)making information about matters relation to the radiocommunications community publicly available.

  • additional functions (Clause 8) including:

a)provision of facilities or services, on a commercial basis, where the services or facilities relate to telecommunications or radiocommunications, utilise spare capacity of the ACA or will result in an improvement in the specialised technical skills of the ACA staff

b)such other functions as are conferred on the ACA by any other law.

Clause 9 gives the ACA the power to do all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connection with the performance of its functions.

The ACA is obliged to perform its functions in a manner consistent with government policies notified by the Minister (Clauses 10 and 11).The Minister may give directions to the ACA in relation to the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers (Clause 12).

Part 3 - Establishment and Membership of the ACA

Clause 14 renames the body corporate known as 'AUSTEL' as the Australian Communications Authority.

The ACA must have 3 to 5 members, made up of a chairman, deputy chairman and 1 to 3 other members (Clause 16).The chairman and deputy chairman must be appointed as full-time members.Provision is made for the appointment of associate members in respect of a specific inquiry or investigation (Clause 18).

Members are appointed by the Governor-General.Associate members are appointed by the Minister (Clauses 17 and 18).

Part 4 - Meetings of the ACA

The ACA may hold meetings as are necessary for the performance of its functions.The Chairman may call a meeting at any time and must call a meeting if requested to do so by:

  • the Minister, or
  • at least 2 members (Clause 22).

A majority of the members constitutes a quorum (Clause 25).A question is decided by a majority of votes of the members present and voting.The person presiding has a deliberative vote and, if necessary, a casting vote (Clause 26).

Members or associate members who have a material personal interest in a matter being considered by the ACA must disclose the nature of that interest and must not take part in or be present during any decision relating to the matter (Clause 30).

Part 5 - Administrative Provisions

Members and Associate Members

Members can be appointed for a maximum of 5 years.An associate member's appointment ends on the day on which the ACA completes the preparation of its report about the inquiry or investigation (Clause 31).

The remuneration of member and associate member is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal.

The Chairman is prohibited from engaging in other paid employment without the Minister's approval.Other full-time members are prohibited from engaging in other paid employment with the Chairman's approval.Part-time members must not engage in other paid employment that, in the Minister's opinion, conflicts with the performance of their duties as a member (Clause 34).

The appointing authority must terminate the appointment of a member or associate member if the Minister is of the opinion that the person's performance has been unsatisfactory for a significant period of time.The Governor-General must terminate all members and associate members if the Minister is of the opinion that the performance of the ACA has been unsatisfactory for a significant period of time (Clause 37).

Finances of the ACA

The Minister for Finance may give directions as to the amounts and at what times funds appropriated for the ACA are paid to the ACA (Clause 43).

Corporate Plan

At least once each year, the ACA must prepare a corporate plan (Clause 48).The plan must cover a period of at least 3 years and must set out details of:

  • the objectives of the ACA
  • the strategies and policies to be following to achieve those objectives
  • such other matters as the Minister requires.


The ACA has the power to delegate any or all of its functions and powers to:

  • a member
  • an associate member, or
  • a member of the staff of the ACA (Clause 49).

Part 6 - Advisory Committees

The ACA may establish advisory committees to assist it in performing any of its functions (Clause 51).

Part 7 - Miscellaneous

The ACA may make determinations fixing charges for services and facilities provided by the ACA and matters in relation to which expenses are incurred by the ACA (Clause 52).

Clause 54 makes 'the ACA' and 'Australian Communications Authority' protected names and makes any official symbol of the ACA a protected symbol.Protected names and symbols cannot be used by other persons.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Lee Jones
5 February 1997
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine whether the Bill has been enacted and, if so, whether the subsequent Act reflects further amendments.

IRS staff are availableto discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members andtheir staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1323-9031
Commonwealth of Australia 1997

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, 1997.

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