WIA submits comments on the Government’s Potential Reform Directions paper
On 11 November 2014, the Minister for Communications, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, announced the release of the Spectrum Review – Potential Reform Directions paper for public comment. The deadline for submissions was 2 December.
Roger Harrison - VK2ZRH
Despite the short timeframe, the WIA compiled a submission of more than 3000 words, addressing seven of the 11 proposals put forward in the Directions paper. These proposals were judged to be of most interest to, and likely to have particular impact on, the Australian radio amateur community.
Of particular interest was the proposal to establish a single licensing framework – known around the industry as “parameter-based” licensing. Naturally, the WIA welcomes this proposal having first advocated it 20 years ago.
The WIA’s submission advocates that “Having all the conditions, or parameters, pertaining to an Amateur licence in one document would greatly improve transparency, certainty and simplicity in licensing matters for the radio amateur community”.
The Directions paper highlighted the issue of reviewing licence tenure and renewal. The WIA argued for security of tenure for amateur licenses, highlight that many amateurs hold a licence for considerable periods and we would be concerned if this custom were at all affected. In addition, the submission said that a significant administrative efficiency could be achieved – and a lowering of costs – through a minimum 5-year licence term for radio amateurs, compared with retaining the 1-year minimum term now prevailing, requiring annual renewal.
That said, the WIA put it that there’s also a role for short-term (less than 12 months) amateur licensing to meet a variety of possible needs, ranging from special events, in emergency incidents, for educational or particular experimental purposes. Amateur visiting from overseas, and having appropriate reciprocal or equivalent qualifications, can operate for short periods in Australia, but this is through a Class licence, which would not carry over under the proposed single licensing framework.
Another issue of importance raised in the Directions paper is greater user involvement in spectrum management, whereby the ACMA could delegate functions to third parties. The WIA amateur examination service is a prime example of such user involvement, and we’ve been doing it for 10 years. However, the WIA submission promotes the implementation of an online register of licences, one that is much more extensive and sophisticated than that which the ACMA has maintained for some 20 years. Such a system would be essential to achieve what the Government proposes regarding greater user involvement in spectrum management.
The Directions paper raised the spectre of licence fees and payment schedules. The WIA submitted that it is “. . . hoped that introducing administrative efficiencies in relation to licensing, particularly in relation to tenure, would lead to a reduction in fees and taxes attached to amateur licences from what now prevails. Don’t hold your breath.
The WIA submission also spends some time supporting extended enforcement measures for the ACMA and developing better regulation of the supply of electrical, electronic and radiocommunications devices. The relentless raising of the radio noise floor is an issue that needs to be tackled. The noise floor affects all spectrum user to one extent or another. Implementing effective, enforceable regulation, coupled with improved equipment standards, will go a long way towards mitigating or reversing this trend.
The WIA’s submission can be downloaded below.
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