Chapter 1



On 28 November 2019, the Senate referred the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Unsolicited Communications) Bill 2019 (the bill) to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee (the committee) for inquiry and report by 17 April 2020.1
The bill was originally introduced as a private senator’s bill by Senator Stirling Griff in the 45th Parliament, and was restored to the Notice Paper on 4 July 2019 following the federal election.2

Conduct of the inquiry

In accordance with the usual practice, the committee advertised the inquiry on its website and wrote to relevant individuals and organisations, inviting submissions by 21 February 2020.
The committee received 16 submissions. The submissions are listed at Appendix    1 and are available on the committee’s website at:
The committee agreed not to hold a public hearing for this inquiry.
The committee thanks the individuals and organisations that contributed to the inquiry.

Scope and structure of the report

This report comprises two chapters. The remaining sections of this chapter outline the background to the bill and the intent of the proposed legislation. Chapter 2 examines the key issues raised in submissions in relation to the bill. The committee’s overall findings and recommendations are provided at the end of Chapter 2.

Purpose of the bill

The intention of the bill is to address concerns raised by some members of the public over unsolicited communications from charities and political parties. According to Senator Griff, the bill ‘seeks to give consumers and voters more control over unsolicited electronic and telephone communication from political parties and registered charities, which currently enjoy broad exemptions from laws that otherwise prohibit or limit telemarketing calls and spam messages’.3
The bill comprises of three main elements. Firstly, if passed, the bill would amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Electoral Act) to ensure that actors are identified as such at the beginning of a pre-recorded voice call in election campaigns.4
Secondly, the bill would amend the Do Not Call Register Act 2006 (DNCR Act) to allow consumers to opt out of receiving phone calls from charities.5
Finally, the bill would amend the Spam Act 2003 (Spam Act) to provide an unsubscribe function to all unsolicited electronic communication from political parties.6

Background to the bill

The bill’s explanatory memorandum (EM) highlights concerns raised by some constituents and consumer advocacy groups in relation to the ‘volume, frequency or desirability of unsolicited marketing communications’, including those from political parties and charities.7
Unsolicited electronic communications from political entities have received mainstream attention in recent years. For example, the text messages sent en masse to voters during the same-sex marriage postal survey and the 2019 federal election both received considerable media coverage.8

Scrutiny by other Parliamentary committees

Following its introduction in the 45th Parliament, the bill was considered by two scrutiny committees as part of usual parliamentary practice. The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills reported no comment on the bill.9
Furthermore, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights reported that the bill did not raise human rights concerns.10 Neither committee has provided further comment in the 46th Parliament.

Key provisions of the bill

Identifying actors

The bill would require that voice calls communicating an electoral matter to a person must identify the use of any actors. This would ensure that actors used for the purposes of a political telephone campaign are clearly identified as such, and that this occurs at the outset of the call.11

An ‘opt-out’ system for charity communication

Currently, Australian numbers registered on the Do Not Call Register may receive telemarketing calls from registered charities, and consumers have no option to ‘opt out’. The bill would amend the DNCR Act to allow people to opt out of receiving charity calls. It would achieve this by introducing to the Do Not Call Register the concept of a ‘charity-contactable number’, which would allow designated telemarketing calls to be made by or on behalf of a charity to that number.12
All Australian numbers registered on the Do Not Call Register would be, by default, charity-contactable numbers unless it is requested by the account holder of a number that their number be not charity-contactable.13 This request could be made at the same time as the application to be listed on the Do Not Call Register, or at any later date.14
A registered charity could submit a list of Australian telephone numbers to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to identify which numbers are charity-contactable numbers. This is consistent with the existing process for charities to determine which numbers are on the Do Not Call Register.15
The bill would provide for similar mechanisms for telemarketing conducted through fax machines.16

Unsubscribing from political texts or emails

The bill would require that Australian electoral matter sent electronically by political parties or candidates for instance, must contain an easily accessible unsubscribe function. This would include a statement to the effect that the recipient may use a provided link to send an unsubscribe message, which must be actioned if requested by the recipient and must be active for at least 30 days after the message is sent.17
The bill also clarifies that government bodies would be exempt from the requirement to include an unsubscribe function by broadening the definition of a ‘designated commercial electronic message’ in Schedule 1 of the Act.18

Industry standards

Finally, the bill would require the ACMA to amend industry standards in relation to telemarketing and fax marketing within 30 days of any legislative changes relevant to the standards.19

  • 1
    Journals of the Senate, No. 31, 28 November 2019, p. 974.
  • 2
    Journals of the Senate, No. 3, 4 July 2019, p. 88.
  • 3
    Senator Stirling Griff, Senate Hansard, 13 February 2019, p. 299.
  • 4
    Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Unsolicited Communications) Bill 2019, cl. 1–2. See also Explanatory Memorandum, p. 1.
  • 5
    Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Unsolicited Communications) Bill 2019, cl. 3–15. See also Explanatory Memorandum, p. 1.
  • 6
    Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Unsolicited Communications) Bill 2019, cl. 16–23. See also Explanatory Memorandum, p. 1.
  • 7
    Explanatory Memorandum, p. 1.
  • 8
    See, for example: Luke Henriques Gomes, ‘”Yes” campaign ramps up voter outreach, risking backlash with text message blast’, The New Daily, 24 September 2017,, accessed 6 April 2020; Lauren Pezet and Simon Wallace, ‘Federal Election 2019: An “avalanche” of campaign texts and calls are coming, and you can’t stop them’, ABC News Online, 11 May 2019,, accessed 6 April 2020.
  • 9
    Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, Scrutiny Digest 2 of 2019, March 2019, pp. 75–76.
  • 10
    Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, Human rights scrutiny report—Report 2 of 2019, April 2019, pp. 169–170.
  • 11
    Explanatory Memorandum, p. 5.
  • 12
    Explanatory Memorandum, p. 6.
  • 13
    Explanatory Memorandum, p. 6.
  • 14
    Explanatory Memorandum, p. 6.
  • 15
    Explanatory Memorandum, pp. 6–7.
  • 16
    For example, Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Unsolicited Communications) Bill 2019, cl. 6 and 14.
  • 17
    Explanatory Memorandum, p. 8.
  • 18
    Explanatory Memorandum, p. 8.
  • 19
    Explanatory Memorandum, p. 9.

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