Senate debates

Monday, 3 December 2018


Telecommunications Legislation Amendment Bill 2018; In Committee

9:10 pm

Photo of Stirling GriffStirling Griff (SA, Centre Alliance) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I move amendments (5) to (7) on sheet 8587:

(5) Schedule 2, page 21 (after line 5), after item 6, insert:

6A Subclause 9 ( 1 ) of Schedule 3

Omit "similar", substitute "equivalent".

(6) Schedule 2, item 7, page 21 (line 16), omit "similar", substitute "equivalent".

(7) Schedule 2, item 7, page 21 (line 25), omit "similar", substitute "equivalent".

These amendments, which Senator O'Neill referred to in her contribution just a moment ago, will ensure that sites are properly remediated when the temporary tower is removed. Schedule 2, in part, deals with the obligations of carriers to remedy sites after the temporary structure is gone and what remedies are available to the landowner should they fail to do so. Existing protections under the Telecommunications Act will continue; however, we know, through submissions made to the department's immunities and powers inquiry, the telcos don't always abide by those rules and local government are often required to stretch their budgets to return sites to their previous state.

Our amendment to section 9A strengthens the drafting of the bill to ensure that a carrier takes all responsibility or responsible steps to return the land to a condition equivalent to what it was before, rather than just to, as it currently states, a similar state. 'Equivalent' means equal in value, amount or function. 'Similar' means having a resemblance in appearance. Any landowner would rightly expect, and should get, like for like or structural repair. There were some concerns raised by others in this place that changing the language of this provision would introduce an unacceptably high bar for carriers. One concern was that, if a carrier were to correct an issue with the land or make an improvement, the carrier would need to undo this when removing the temporary facility in order to adhere with the definition of 'equivalent'.

I don't know about anybody else in this place, but I've never heard of a carrier making improvements—that is, making a site better—when they maintain or repair their infrastructure or facilities. In fact, it is usually very much the opposite of that. Both myself and my staff have seen images of poorly-restored land following the removal of telco infrastructure and restorations that have taken months, even years, to be completed. All you have to do is browse the hundreds of complaints on the social media pages of telcos to see pictures of poor restoration work and, certainly, no true improvements. We believe any landowner would expect telcos to leave their property in the same state they found it—essentially: if they break it, they fix it—and that they don't cut any corners on standards or materials in doing so.


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