Government ministers have been briefed about a major shake-up to the national communications system, with the Communications Minister saying it would be “very likely” that the proposed changes would be passed in the next few weeks.
Key points:Minister for Communications Steven Joyce has said the proposed change will “impact” on how Australians communicateThe proposed changes have been described as “transformational” and “transformative”The government says the reforms would be part of a “recovery strategy” to protect Australia’s digital futureThe changes would include “a greater focus on local and regional communications” and would see the number of “public interest and public safety communications” be increased by “around 30%”.
The proposed legislation has been described by one of the ministers as a “transformatory” move and a “transformation”.
“It is going to impact on how people communicate,” said Communications Minister Steven Joyce.
“What it will do is, it will impact on the way we communicate, because it will require us to be more proactive in identifying issues and it will mean we will have greater capacity to deal with these issues.”
And that means more effective and efficient responses to the problems that we’re facing.
“The proposed change has been labelled a “comprehensive communications reform” and a new “transformations strategy”.
The changes include a “broadening of” the public interest and safety communications portfolio, with responsibility for managing the communications system for all states and territories.”
This is a very big change for the communications industry and it is very, very significant,” Mr Joyce said.”
It will be a transformative reform that will impact how we communicate and how we manage our communications and we are going to have to work very hard to ensure that it doesn’t take away from our ability to deliver the services we need to our people.
“We want to make sure that we are doing everything possible to minimise the impact of any changes that we make.”
Mr Joyce said the changes would allow the department to work more closely with industry, and that the changes could be made to help improve services for “all Australians”.
“The National Broadband Network will be able to provide a much more effective communication system,” he said.”[But] what we are also very, quite mindful of is that this is a reform that’s about a change in direction for the Communications Act and it’s about more focus on public interest communications.”
Mr Turnbull said the Government’s “transformatives strategy” was being discussed with industry and “everyone else” but he did not specify which industries or organisations he was referring to.
Mr Turnbull also said the new laws would not affect any Australian’s ability to communicate via a satellite phone.
“You can communicate in the same way that you can communicate from a mobile phone, which is fine,” he told ABC Radio.
“But this is about more efficient communication, it’s not about a blanket requirement to be able do that.”
But the proposed bill has already been criticised by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which says it will put a “significant strain” on existing telecommunications networks.
“There will be some impact, but not as significant as it might seem, in terms of congestion and other problems associated with the use of mobile networks, which we already see,” said ACMA’s head of telecommunications, Neil Toner.
“These new changes will increase the number and intensity of our network’s congestion problems, which will cause the cost of doing business for many businesses and consumers to increase.”